Hoboken Rent Control vote voided by NJ Judge

You almost knew this was going to happen. The confusing Hoboken rent control public question that was on the ballot of the general election back in November has to be voted on again, according to NJ Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington.

The Judge determined the voting results “void.” The petition to revise rent control laws in Hoboken more in favor of property owners had failed by just about 50 votes. But the Mile Square Taxpayers Association who filed suit claimed that many voters couldn’t cast their ballot because of issues arising from Hurricane Sandy.

A new special election will need to be held in 60 days, according to the ruling.

As the world turns here in Hoboken…

Hoboken Rent Control Election voided

Nora Jabobson Film Screenings for pro-Hoboken rent control

10/11/2012 Update:

Whether you’re in agreement with rent control in Hoboken or just on the fence – you will be interested in this film screening double header on Saturday, October 20th at 7pm.

The Hoboken Fair Housing Association is screening two Nora Jacobson films over at The Community Church at 6th & Garden Streets. The infamous Delivered Vacant (which I have on DVD somewhere in case someone wants to borrow it), and the premier of “Hoboken Waterfront Referendum” (which doesn’t necessarily have too much to do with rent control – but will probably be a doozy for any so-called “activist.”)

Cost is $10.

Hoboken Fair Housing meeting on 8/2/2012

7/30/2012 Update:

In case you’re following the whole rent control debate between the Mile Square Taxpayers Association (anti-rent control) and the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (Pro-rent control), you might be interested to know that the latter is holding an “emergency tenants meeting” on Thursday, August 2nd.

Takes place from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at the Community Church of Hoboken located at 6th & Garden. Read more from the HFHA below.

Emergency Tenants Meeting – Thursday August 2nd

“HFHA will be holding an Emergency Tenants Meeting (that will) define strategies for action to protect Rent Control in Hoboken in the face of the anti-Rent Control initiative recently submitted to the city by the landlord group Mile Square Taxpayers Association.

IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU ATTEND THIS MEETING.

If you think it’s too much of a hassle to attend a meeting, imagine the hassle when you get a notice saying your rent is going to double, because that’s what’s going to happen IF WE DON’T ACT.

It’s time to FIGHT BACK for our right to affordable housing.”

Landlord Fritz Haas on Hoboken Rent Control

11/2/2011 Update:

This clip was produced by the Mile Square Taxpayers Association:

Hoboken Rent Control Debate set for Friday 10/28/2011

10/27/2011 Update:

Interested in hearing both sides of the Hoboken Rent Control situation hash it out? Then skip Happy Hour tomorrow night and head over to Our Lady of Grace School Hall at 5th & Willow at 7:30pm.

“The two organizations will be represented respectively by Cheryl Fallick and Dan Tumpson for Hoboken Fair Housing and Ron Simoncini and Joe Murray for Mile Square Taxpayers Association.

Ms. Fallick and Mr. Tumpson are both long-time supporters of rent control laws, since 1981. Their organization is responsible for obtaining the signatures of 3,158 Hoboken voters on a petition requesting a public referendum on the recent changes to local rent-control ordinances passed this summer by city council. This petition ultimately led to the issue being placed on the November ballot. Mile Square Taxpayers, which advocated for rent control reform, will be represented by its Executive Director Ron Simoncini and Joe Murray, a resident of Hoboken since 1982 and an owner of rent-controlled property.”

Rent Control issue rages on; some say city hall “cozy with developers”

10/19/2011 Update:

Many of you have probably already seen the many signs around town encouraging residents to vote YES on Public Question #2 during the November 8, 2011 General Elections in New Jersey.

One sign read:

“Are you aware that you are probably protected by rent control? Do you know that the city council has given in to the demands of a small group of wealthy developers / landlords to remove those protections?”

Prospective condo owners seen tearing signs down

Hoboken411 reader Scott sent in these photos of a couple tearing down the signs, and said:

“These two people were witnessed ripping down fliers supporting hoboken rent control laws… They said it was “their right” to remove them because they were against it and their right since they were posted on a telephone pole which is public property. Took place last Saturday on the 1100 block of Hudson street, while they waited to go see a condo for sale at 1110 Hudson…”

Property Owners class action lawsuit against Hoboken

2/14/2011 Update:

Class action lawsuit filed against the city of Hoboken. See the document here.

How would you solve the rent control situation in Hoboken?

Hoboken Rent Control Subcommittee meeting at 6pm

1/24/2011 Update:

For those following the drama of the Hoboken Rent Control issues in town, would probably be interested in attending a meeting at city hall tonight at 6pm.

They’ve proposed a revised city rent control ordinance – with some changes, including a two year limitation for recovering back rent.

Rent Control debate continues in Hoboken

9/22/2010 Update:

Hoboken’s Rent Control control debate is being featured on My9 news.

Dawn Zimmer appointed Rent Control Board member/tenant advocate Cheryl Fallick faced off with the lawyer for the Mile Square Taxpayers Association, Ron Simoncini.

Anchor Harry Martin moderates the four minute segment. Both Ron and Cheryl appear far more subdued that they do at a typical City Council meeting, where both are frequent (and animated) speakers.

Some feel abolishing rent control only aids developers

8/12/2010 Update:

More on the Rent Control battle here in Hoboken from Attorney Cathy Cardillo:

“It is shocking just how far some developers in City of Hoboken will go to subvert the public good and the retention of rent controls, which provide some level of affordable housing, here – just for the sake of even more profit. There have been two mass mailings to homeowners with distortions and lies to scare them into believing that these controls, in existence since 1973, are suddenly “bad” – for them and the City.

Here are the “truths”:

  • There is no “rent control disaster” in Hoboken – this is a contrived invention of some developers. The “high litigation costs,” which the developers complain about, and which as residents, you help pay – come from the developers, themselves, with at least two lengthy and costly litigation efforts, that have as, yet, to give them any measure of success.
  • Critically, the only final ruling of any court on the Hoboken Rent Control Ordinance and its constitutional application – held it to be “clear and unambiguous,” and that the Hoboken Rent Leveling & Stabilization Board was “not arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” in following it; and this is as recent as July 12, 2010.
  • Further, there is not a “volume” of lawsuits against landlords, nor are “unscrupulous attorneys” merely “exploiting technicalities” to leverage settlements. Where a few lawsuits exist – it is, generally, because the public record disclosed, that landlord’s deliberate avoidance of the Ordinance and the charging of illegal rents to some, but not all of his tenants. It is this avoidance which subjects these landlords to State statutory penalties, not the Ordinance or the acts of the Board. A landlord who properly abides by and follows the Ordinance will never have a problem.
  • The Ordinance is not “broken;” though some changes would clarify and simplify it. The developers, though, want to have all of their past illegal rents made legal – by starting all legal rent calculations from 2007. This is “unfair,” as their tenants have no idea that they have been gouged, because they believed in and trusted the knowing misrepresentations of the developers.

This is your City – stand up against the developers’ abuse of the Ordinance for their own personal gain, and for the retention of affordable housing in Hoboken!

Cathy C. Cardillo, Esq., Attorney for CRAHH

5/8/2010 Update:

It’s obvious the City of Hoboken isn’t moving quick on this Rent Control issue – because it’s a double-edged sword. For number of landlords you’d please, the number of voting bodies you’d anger is a much larger number. So now the city is skirting the issue, claiming various complexities, and other excuses. We’ll see more about what comes from this down the roard.

But Hoboken Lawyer Frank Marciano was quoted last month in the New Jersey Law Journal about this very issue.

What is really going on here? Insider deals to reverse the law? Or timely adjustment of an out-dated restriction?

Landlords attack lax rent-control law in Hoboken

Hoboken Rent Control Class Action Lawsuit“A Hudson County judge has granted class certification to landlords of 8,000 Hoboken apartments seeking a declaration that the city’s enforcement of rent control is unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Bernadette DeCastro made the ruling on March 31 and named Charles Gormally of Roseland’s Brach Eichler class counsel.

A lawyer for Hoboken says the city didn’t oppose certification and is planning rent-control reform that would obviate the need for the litigation, DeNardo v. City of Hoboken, Hud-L-690-10.

At issue is the “Alice in Hobokenland rent control situation,” as Frank Marciano, a lawyer outside the case, describes what is happening in a housing market dominated by renters who have turned the once-gritty dockside town into a trendy address for professionals who commute to Manhattan.

“It’s like going through the looking glass into a strange world,” he says.

Under the rent-leveling ordinance that affects apartment units on the market before the mid-1980s, landlords are required to file an annual registration statement that lists the amount of rent being charged. They also must file vacancy decontrol forms to obtain approval for rent increases to new tenants.

But the administration of the process has been hit or miss, with lax enforcement of the filing requirements.

An expert in one case suggested that in a decontrol review, the landlord and the city official would “do quick calculations, nothing formal, but would let you know that, yeah, these look like good rents or there’s a problem.”

The process was called into question when some tenants became assertive about their rights. At those tenants’ requests, the Rent Leveling Board began issuing calculations based on the letter of the filing requirements. Some landlords were ordered to pay back thousands of dollars they charged in unauthorized rent increases, sometimes going back two decades.

The process was called into question when some tenants became assertive about their rights. At those tenants’ requests, the Rent Leveling Board began issuing calculations based on the letter of the filing requirements. Some landlords were ordered to pay back thousands of dollars they charged in unauthorized rent increases, sometimes going back two decades.

Last year, the landlords fought back and won a key victory. In September, Judge Shirley Tolentino agreed with the owner of a 40-unit apartment building who argued that the rent-control ordinance was unconstitutional as applied because of the haphazard administration.

“The carrying out of the meaning of the ordinance was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” Tolentino ruled in granting temporary restraints pending trial of the matter, Bloomfield 206 Corporation v. City of Hoboken , Hud-L-3112-07.

Gormally, who represented the landlord in Bloomfield 206 , says the class action would extend the benefit of that ruling to all landlords affected by rent control.

The city’s lawyer, Michael Kates of Kates, Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi in Hackensack, says the city didn’t oppose class certification because committees of the municipal council are working on legislation that would make the class action moot.

Meanwhile, a leader among lawyers who represent tenants seeking rent rollbacks and retroactive payments is challenging Tolentino’s decision in the Bloomfield 206 case.

The lawyer, Hoboken solo Cathy Cardillo, says in an appeal that the landlords’ goal is to excuse bad-faith acts of apartment owners who “knowingly avoided the ordinance for their own benefit and to profit, at the expense of the innocent tenants, by keeping their ill-gotten gains.”

The landlords’ goal is to win the grandfathering of all illegal rents and full vacancy decontrol, she argues in a motion for leave to intervene on behalf of Citizens for the Retention of Affordable Housing in Hoboken.

She argues that Tolentino’s decision is at odds with previous appellate court rulings that upheld enforcement of the rent-leveling ordinance.

It took an ethics ruling by an appeals court to make Cardillo’s appearance as counsel for the citizens’ group possible. In a previous case she had represented individuals who later emerged as parties on the landlords’ side in Bloomfield 206 and she had agreed to a settlement that would have kept her from appealing.

But Cardillo decided to renounce the agreement and sued to make it happen. The appeals panel, in Cardillo v. Bloomfield 206 Corp., A-4020-08, ruled that she could renounce the settlement and come back into the case because the settlement violated an ethics rule that prohibits restrictions on clients’ right to counsel of their choice.

Marciano, the outside observer, whose clients include landlords and tenants, suggests there is unreasonableness on both sides of the city’s rent wars. By his reckoning, some tenants deserve relief because they have been paying illegally high rents for years. At the same time, he says, it’s not fair to require landlords to pay thousands of dollars in refunds and risk bankruptcy because the city failed to enforce the filing requirements.

“The best course in these cases is for the parties to reach a reasonable settlement,” he says.

Just or Unjust?

2/4/2010:

Hoboken Rent Control Class Action LawsuitThe Mile Square Taxpayers Association has filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Hoboken, seeking millions of dollars of damages for “unjust losses” due to what they believe are as a result of poorly managed Rent Control procedure in Hoboken.

You can see the full release below, but questions that come to mind are:

  • The Hoboken Rent Control Ordinance has specific rules and regulations that the landlords must follow to stay within compliance. Many residents I’ve spoken with, discovered that their landlords were charging much more than the stated rent on file at city hall, which is an obvious violation of the ordinance. Do you think some landlords knew that they were in violation in order to seek higher monthly payments? If so, do they deserve the rollbacks, and back payments?
  • What about landlords that didn’t understand the law – should the phrase “ignorance is no excuse” apply to them?”
  • Is rent control still fair for the buildings that are covered? You should see some of the improperly maintained dumps out there.
  • Not sure how many rent-controlled buildings are out there, but what would happen if they all return to “market” rate? Do you think rental vacancies will skyrocket?
  • Is it possible the city could be on the hook for millions? Thus further crushing any hope for reduced taxes? Or is this just a “stunt” to force the council to take action?

Press Release:

Rent Control Ordinance subject to class action lawsuit

Action builds on judge’s finding of unconstitutionality in prior suit – Damages in hundreds of millions

“Representing the owners of as many as 8,000 rent controlled units in Hoboken, a class action has been filed on behalf of property owners victimized by what a judge in a previous case called the “arbitrary and subjective” application of the rent control ordinance by city officials.

The lawsuit seeks damages, injunctive and declaratory relief against the Defendants, including The City of Hoboken, Hoboken Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board (the “Board”), Suzanne Hetman, Mayor of the City of Hoboken and the City of Hoboken Municipal Council.

“Hoboken has completely neglected its duty to fairly and competently administer its rent control law,” says Charles Gormally, attorney for the class. “Rather than follow the Ordinance or appeal to the Council to properly amend it, the Rent Leveling Board and its Administrators have improvised well beyond their authority and any acceptable legal standard. The direct damages to property owners, which were realized in the form of inappropriate rent rollbacks, fines and settlements, are in the tens of millions. However, the implied damages are in the hundreds of millions in lost property value to the entire Class.

“The sad part of this is that the Council and the Administration have been aware of the unjustness of these problems for years, and they have had ample legislative and administrative remedies but declined to use them,” says Mr. Gormally.

“The most recent three Rent Leveling Officers have testified that their policies varied and acknowledge that the retrospective application of the law left owners unable to establish legal rents, availing them to unjust losses,” says Mr. Gormally. “Judge Tolentino found the law unconstitutional in a case where the facts are operatively identical to those of the Class. Still, the City did nothing to remedy the situation. It could have stayed future rulings pending a clarification of the law or it could have awaited the conclusion of litigation that would have clarified the law. The City has done nothing of the sort, in fact encouraging additional unjust suits by providing information about technical violations to attorneys who have brought additional suits.”

“The class action describes how the Class was deprived of its rights “by the Defendants’ systematic failure to uniformly and constitutionally administer and enforce the Rent Control Ordinance” in violation of the New Jersey and US Constitutions:

For more than twenty-five years, the defendants, through inefficiency, inaction, and the administration of unwritten policies and procedures, enforced the Rent Control Ordinance in a manner inconsistent with its express language. (For example, despite that the ordinance required registration and filing of certain forms, the office accepted other evidence of conforming leases, including cancelled checks.)

However, in 2006, the defendants, despite the full knowledge of its prior policies and procedures, retrospectively changed their policies and procedures. In so doing, the defendants now enforce the Rent Control Ordinance in a manner that the plaintiffs, and the Class, are unable to comply with….This egregious retrospective enforcement of the Rent Control Ordinance violates the basic principles of due process and has resulted in an intolerable burden on the Plaintiffs and those similarly situated.

The class action points to a lawsuit the Defendants lost in 2006, when a rent calculation performed by the Administrator and affirmed by the Board in which they applied their long standing unwritten policies and procedures was overturned. The Court found that those policies were inconsistent with the precise language of the Rent Control Ordinance, and thereafter, the Board and the Administrator began to retrospectively enforce the Rent Control Ordinance in an entirely different manner than they had for the previous 25 years without regard to their long standing practices upon which the class members relied.

Due to this arbitrary, capricious and manifestly unjust change in policies, the Plaintiffs and the Class, who have relied upon the Board’s longstanding prior policies, find themselves in the untenable position of complete uncertainty of the legal rents in their properties. This arbitrary and capricious economic regulation of Plaintiffs and the Class’s property has resulted in: complete doubt and insecurity regarding the legal rent for apartments subject to rent control; exposure to significant liability to current and former tenants based on their inability to comply with the current retrospective application of the Rent Control Ordinance; exposure to liability to tenants for periods of time when the Class did not even own the property; inability to convey title to their properties without the cloud of regulatory uncertainty regarding the legality of rents that have been charged for their apartments; and the likelihood that Plaintiffs and the Class can not obtain a fair and reasonable rate of return on their investment.”

Hoboken NJ

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