PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Phillipsburg Town Council is pursuing an ordinance to regulate, control and stabilize rents and create a body to mediate relationships between tenants and landlords.
By a 4-1 vote at its meeting Tuesday night, the council approved a first reading of a rent control ordinance "to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the residents" of Phillipsburg. Council member Danielle DeGerolamo cast the dissenting vote.
The proposed ordinance would establish rents between landlords and tenants, ensuring that landlords request or receive no more than a 3% increase a year for occupied housing units. Tenants who supply their own heat or the cost of fuel would not face more than a 2.8% increase. Landlords would be required to notify tenants of a rent increase 60 days before the date the increase goes into effect.
Under the proposed ordinance, landlords would be required to supply new tenants, in writing, a statement notifying them about the rent control ordinance and a list of all charges, including base rent, tax surcharges and improvement surcharges.
A Phillipsburg rent leveling board consisting of three members and two alternates would be appointed by town council and serve three-year terms without compensation.
The board would be charged with granting rental increases, decreases, rollbacks and increases due to capital improvements, issuing refunds, keeping records and holding hearings.
The board would hold public meetings on the third Thursday at 7 p.m. in January, March, May, July, September and November.
DeGerolamo, noting that she originally supported the ordinance, said she had a change of opinion after researching the effectiveness of rent control regulations. She said such an ordinance would have the opposite effect of what the council desires. She said it would drive investors away, leave landlords struggling to make needed repairs and place renters in incomplete dwellings.
"We need to go after the bad landlords," she said.
Council President Robert Fulper said he supports the ordinance because Phillipsburg has landlords who do the bare minimum to their rental properties, "allowing tenants to live in squalor." He said renters, not landlords, are the council's real constituents.
At the end of the meeting, council member Joshua Davis, who was elected to the council in 2015, announced that he is moving to Easton with his family and resigning his seat.
Fulper said after the meeting that the town's Democratic committee will put forward three people for the council to consider to serve out the remainder of Davis' term, which expires Dec. 31.
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