STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2014 SESSION
Assemblyman GORDON M. JOHNSON
District 37 (Bergen)
Limits rent increases for certain senior citizens.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel
An Act concerning rent control for certain senior citizens and supplementing chapter 18 of Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Senior Tenant Protection Act."
2. The Legislature finds and declares that many senior citizens age 67 or older are on fixed incomes comprised principally of small pensions and social security income. Senior citizens who live in rental housing are often faced with rent payments that increase faster than their social security cost of living adjustments. In addition, senior citizens who have lived in a certain dwelling for many years are less able than younger tenants to perform the physical exertions necessary for a move and to adapt to a new location involving different stores, doctors and support groups. Therefore, to protect the health and well-being of senior citizens who have resided as tenants at a certain location for many years it is in the public interest and the public policy of this State to guarantee those senior citizens affordable rental housing at their current locations in order to avoid displacement due to rents that increase faster than their income.
3. As used in this act:
"Annual index rate factor" means 1 plus the product of .0075 multiplied by the difference between the current index minus the index determined for the previous year, for the appropriate Consumer Price Index.
"Consumer Price Index" means the annual average over a 12-month period beginning September 1 and ending August 31 of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), All Items Series A, of the United States Department of Labor (1957-1959 = 100), for either the New York, NY-Northeastern New Jersey region or the Philadelphia, PA-New Jersey region, accordingly as either shall have been determined by the commissioner to be applicable in each county within the State.
"Protected senior citizen tenant" means a tenant who qualifies and applies for protected senior citizen tenant status pursuant to section 4 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Community Affairs.
4. Any resident of this State, who is age 67 or more years and who has continued to occupy a dwelling unit in the same building or structure, that is not public housing, as his or her principal residence for at least 10 years shall be eligible to apply for protected senior citizen tenant status with the Department of Community Affairs. The surviving spouse of a protected senior citizen tenant who is at least 55 years of age or older at the time of the protected senior citizen tenant's death may also apply for protected senior citizen tenant status.
5. a. The commissioner shall notify a landlord, in writing, that a tenant has been approved as a protected senior citizen tenant within 10 days of such approval.
b. Following notice as provided in subsection a. of this section, and except as provided in subsection c. of this section, a landlord shall not require a person who has been granted protected senior citizen tenant status to pay any rent increase that exceeds the protected senior citizen tenant's current rent multiplied by the annual index rate factor promulgated by the commissioner that is applicable to the region of residence. This provision shall supersede any municipal rent control or rent leveling ordinance to the contrary.
c. A landlord may file with the commissioner an application for a waiver of the annual index rate factor promulgated under section 6 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). In reviewing a landlord's application for a waiver, the commissioner shall specifically consider whether the rent increase limit provided to a protected senior citizen tenant pursuant to subsection b. of this section would cause an undue hardship to the landlord because of the landlord's financial condition or any other factor relating to the landlord's ownership of the premises. When the commissioner grants a landlord's application for a waiver, the commissioner shall set rent of the protected senior citizen tenant at an amount that will not cause the landlord undue hardship.
6. a. The commissioner shall annually, on or before October 1, promulgate an annual index rate factor applicable to each of the regions within the State.
b. The commissioner shall approve any application for protected senior citizen tenancy status of any person that meets the qualifications established pursuant to section 3 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
c. The commissioner shall, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), promulgate such rules and regulations, and design such forms, as are necessary to effectuate the purposes of this act.
7. A landlord who increases a protected senior citizen tenant's rent in excess of the amount permitted under section 5 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall be liable in a summary proceeding before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Special Civil Part, to pay damages to the protected tenant in an amount equal to the greater of $500 or three times the difference between the rental increase and the allowable rental increase, plus reasonable attorney fees.
8. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill is intended to assure affordable rental housing for a significant portion of New Jersey's senior citizen population. The bill would permit senior citizens, of 67 or more years, who have lived in a dwelling unit in a particular building or structure that is not public housing for at least the previous 10 years as their principal residence, to apply to the Commissioner of Community Affairs for protected senior citizen tenant status. A person meeting those requirements would be granted protected senior citizen status and their landlord would be so notified. A landlord would be required to limit any rent increase to the annual index rate factor promulgated by the commissioner for that particular county. The annual index rate factor would be 75% of the increase in the average consumer price index, determined on an annual basis. For each county the commissioner would use the consumer price index applicable either to the New York metropolitan area or the Philadelphia metropolitan area, as appropriate to the location and economic conditions of the county, as determined by the commissioner.
A landlord who increases the rent of a protected senior citizen tenant above the allowable amount would be liable for damages in an amount equal to the greater of $500 or three times the rent difference, plus reasonable attorney fees in a summary proceeding. A landlord facing undue hardship as a result of a tenant with protected senior citizen tenant status would be entitled to apply to the commissioner for a hardship waiver of the annual index rate factor. The commissioner could then set the rent at a level to ensure that the landlord does not suffer undue hardship.
The provisions of this bill would supersede any municipal rent control ordinance to the contrary.