by Katherine Guest for The Hudson County View

May 17, 2018

Advocacy group Jersey City Together, along with Mayor Steven Fulop and other officials, announced aggressive rent control enforcement actions for tenants and landlords, during Tuesday’s open forum at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Jersey City Together leaders partnered with city officials and the Waterfront Project, Inc. to ensure residents in every Ward learn more about their rights as tenants.

The Fulop administration previously committed to a refinement and expansion of office duties in the Tenant Resources office, proper attorney representation for tenants, and law enforcement.

The tenant landlord and the enforcement mechanisms for the city have been weak for decades,” Fulop said at the meeting.

“One of the things that we’ve been talking about together with Jersey City Together was about the entire restructuring and making sure that there’s more tenant focus, as opposed to being landlord focused.”

A year ago, Jersey City Together along with residents and faith leaders around the city, gathered together to ask Fulop and the city council for aggressive enforcement aimed at “mega-landlord” Trendy Management.

The activism resulted in 1,750 plus housing & health code violations issued to the landlord that caused a domino effect: 80 of their 140 buildings were sold.

Nearly 12 months later, several tenants remain in a similar condition. The new landlords who bought the properties are continuing the cycle of ignorance on the city’s rent control law.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, three Jersey City residents shared their stories which included instances of raw sewage pouring into residential hallways, pest control issues and rent control violations.

“Tonight is about action, tonight is also about accountability, but most importantly, tonight is about results,” said Liz Fisher, a member of Jersey City Together.

“Less than a week after our action in June, Trendy sold 35 of their buildings to my landlord, Joseph Ehrman.”

Jersey City Together’s main focus is aimed on a family of companies connected to Joseph Ehrman: Optimum Property Management, Sixth Boro Rentals and Golden Apple.

“In almost every case, long term tenants are being pushed out, tenant complaints are getting ignored, and our rent control law is getting mocked,” added Fisher.

In a powerpoint presentation, Dinah Hendon, the executive director of the Waterfront Project, spoke in depth about tenant/landlord rights and obligations including the Rent Control Laws within the city – while also speaking about New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act.

“[There is] no self-help eviction in New Jersey. No landlord can ever, ever, ever, ever, lock you out. The landlord must have a reason to evict unless you’re in a small building and the landlord is living there, even then they have to send you a notice,” Hendon stated.

Under the NJ Consumer Fraud Act and Anti-Eviction Act, a landlord who breaks Jersey City’s rent control law may be liable for triple damages, along with attorney’s fees, for rent surcharges going back up to six years.

Local rent control laws are significant in maintaining affordable housing in densely populated areas. Landlords in Jersey City are permitted to raise rent at a cap of four percent per year, which is determined by the Consumer Price Index.

Fulop and Council President Rolando  Lavarro, who was also in attendance, expressed their commitment to the issue by getting to work on an ordinance expected to be on the agenda for the June 13th council meeting.

A follow-up meeting with Jersey City Together at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. will also tackle resolving any other issues surrounding tenant/landlord issues