06/19/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2017 13:35
Legislation (S-3270) introduced earlier this month by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) to hold negligent landlords accountable for deplorable, unsanitary conditions in subsidized housing has been advanced by the Senate Community & Urban Affairs Committee.
Sen. Jennifer Beck visited one of the locations highlighted in the APP series, 'Renter Hell,' on Tuesday, May 30th, with local officials, including Asbury Park Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton. (SenateNJ.com)
The 'Safe Sanitary Subsidized Rental Housing Bill of Rights' addresses problems, including children and families living side by side with rats and cockroaches, crumbling walls and ceilings, a lack of heat and hot water, that were identified in the recent Asbury Park Press (APP) investigative series, 'Renter Hell.'
'Some of the living conditions revealed in subsidized housing across New Jersey are absolutely horrifying,' said Beck. 'No family or child should be forced to live in squalor as a result of landlord negligence. Our legislation targets the playbook that bad landlords have used to avoid accountability and responsibility for too long.'
The 'Safe Sanitary Subsidized Rental Housing Bill of Rights' restructures government's response to empower the Department of Community Affairs and local Housing Authorities (and HUD is encouraged) to withhold their portion of rental subsidy when there are significant safety and sanitary violations such as infestations of rats, cockroaches, or a lack of heat or hot water. In the cases cited in 'Renter Hell,' the State, HUD and Housing Authorities were continuing to pay rent despite deplorable and unlivable conditions, failed inspections, and landlords' refusals to make repairs. The bill allows government to withhold a part or all of the rent on a per unit basis until correction action is taken.
The legislation also requires phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses for the owner(s) of the building. Currently, local and State enforcement officials have a difficult time locating the actual owner because most are organized as limited liability corporations (LLCs) and only provide a business name and PO Box. The APP 'Renter Hell' series found more than 300 businesses registered to the same post office box in Lakewood.
Beck highlighted the bipartisan nature of the legislation, which addresses problems faced by tenants across New Jersey.
'Senator Rice and I are working together across partisan lines to help at-risk families across New Jersey,' added Beck. 'I'm encouraged that the Legislature has already started to advance this bill. It's a sign of how critical this effort is.'