Home News N.J. town still has a rent freeze. Why are tenants getting hit with rent hikes?

N.J. town still has a rent freeze. Why are tenants getting hit with rent hikes?

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When Rashid received a renewal of his apartment’s lease in early June, it said the rent would go up by 4%.

However, he found out when he started a conversation with his neighbor. rent freeze Most often enacted by the city rent a managed apartment During the COVID pandemic, still valid. the landlord was not allowed raise his rent

“I was so shocked,” said Rashid, who asked to withhold his last name to protect his privacy.

A Lease From Building review shows that Rashid’s experience is no outlier. It is clear that more than 20 of his tenants at Pavilion Apartments in Newark’s Central Ward have had their leases renewed with rent increases, each in violation of the city’s rent freeze. And despite multiple notices that tenants are subject to a freeze, the property of the two-building, 680-unit complex has continued to send out leases reflecting the increase, documents show. and the tenant said his organizer.

Additionally, despite the pattern of complaints received by Newark’s Rent Authority, the city has failed to take steps to audit landlords to see if the problem is more widespread. Leaving tenants, some may not know about the freeze, others may themselves fear retaliation by landlords.

City spokeswoman Crystal Rosa said: “Under the law, there is no trigger for the rental management office to audit the entire building.

In fact, the city says there is no agency that actively checks whether landlords are following the rules unless tenants ask about rent increases. Officials said the leases were not spotted or randomized. This is an honor system unless specific complaints are filed by tenants.

The executive order may not have specific “triggers” or requirements to audit landlords or buildings, but Matt Shapiro, president of the New Jersey Tenant Organization, said the city has the authority to do so. I’m claiming

“If they care about the purpose of the ordinance, or in this case, an executive order, they will use that power to make sure the law is being followed,” he said.

But Newark City Council Speaker Lamonica McIver, who represents the pavilion’s tenants, said it wasn’t clear what action could be taken other than handling the increase on a case-by-case basis.

“At this time, the rental management office is investigating and working with our legal department[as to whether additional action can be taken],” she said.

“It’s unacceptable. What they’re doing is 150% wrong,” she said of the rent increase.

Property management company Salman Capital and its representative Nadia Hamdou did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but emails exchanged between Hamdou, tenants and city officials said: Hamdou, shared with NJ Advance Media, said the company was aware of the rent. Freeze and fix wrong hikes.

“We would like to inform you that we are aware of the rent freeze,” Hamdu wrote on Oct. 24, noting that another company’s office in a city where the rent freeze has not been implemented has taken the wrong lease. I’m pointing out that it may have been sent. “These tenants may be confused with other unfrozen locations.”

Rent increases date back to at least March and lasted until at least August, documents show. Affected tenants say that no one in the building contacted them to warn them of the potential error. I learned about Freeze from another resident.

shine a light on rent increases

Sam August, a pavilion resident and spokesman for the tenants, said the building has a good reputation.

He moved here about 15 years ago, attracted by the short commute and views of the Passaic River.Eventually he Outspoken Tenant Advocate, Frequent sparring with management problem of serialization in a complex.

When he learned of the rent increase earlier this year, the antennae of his supporters skyrocketed.

August leases renew on September 1st of each year. He and his husband said they weren’t aware the freeze was still in effect, but expected a 4% increase, the maximum allowed for rent-controlled apartments.

They hadn’t received a new lease, but when they received their Sept. 1 invoice online, there was no rent increase.

But he soon learned that this was not the experience of all tenants.

Sam August in front of Newark’s Pavilion Apartments in this 2012 photo. Today, he’s trying to help a tenant who was given a rent increase even though the rent in Newark’s rent control unit is frozen. (William Perlman/Star Ledger)

“As I was in the elevator, a neighbor said she had been offered a lease renewal with a price increase, so she had a run-in with the property manager. She said rent was frozen in Newark. I know,” said August.

August said he was concerned about other neighbors and began asking everyone he saw in the elevator or laundry room if they had seen a price increase. Everyone he spoke to, he said, was, except Janice Afolo, president of the Tenants Association.

Afolo said he believes management knew about the rent freeze, so there was no increase.

“They are picking their battles, so to speak,” she says, noting that she has lived in the building since 1994 and her tenancy activities are very well known in the community. “It’s an ongoing process.

August said he believed he had not received a price increase due to past allegations, and launched an email campaign on behalf of affected tenants to notify both the city and property managers of their respective price increases. Each time, the property manager acknowledged the error and said it would be fixed. , the document also shows.

Mr. August is frustrated by the city’s rent control office, which has done nothing to help an unknown number of tenants who may be unknowingly paying higher than legal rents. Said there was

“Property managers will only correct lease renewals and credit overcharges if tenants lodge individual complaints,” August said. Not only is there, but rent management offices are completely unwilling to act aggressively, and property owners know enforcement is weak.”

August and Afolo said they have spoken to at least 32 residents who have seen rent increases since late spring.

What the city can and cannot do

Newark spokeswoman Rosa said the primary function of the Rent Control Board is to hear and mediate tenant and landlord petitions for rent under the city’s Rent Control Act.

“Tenants must file separate petitions with the board alleging that the moratorium has been violated,” she said. We support tenants.”

After a complaint is received, the rent office contacts the landlord, Rosa said.

“If the landlord refuses, it can be found that the landlord has not complied, and a violation can occur,” she said. A fine can be imposed.Only a judge can impose a fine.The Rent Management Office does not have that power.”

Asked how many complaints have been filed against landlords in Pavilion and Newark since the pandemic began, Rosa said the data isn’t stored in a single database, so it’s not readily available. Nor does it have a single database that records how many landlords have been cited for unjustified rent increases since the freeze was put into effect, she said.

Pavilion property manager Salman Capital also manages the building on South Orange Avenue in Newark, according to public records. When asked how many complaints have been filed about allegedly unfair rent increases on the property, Rosa simply replied, “All these increases have been fixed.”

Alison Rudd, director of the City of Newark’s economic and housing development division, said the city wants to protect and support its tenants.

“It’s hard to protect yourself from all the bad guys, but we’re trying,” she said. “I believe we are doing our best to accommodate individual requests with our limited resources. We will respond immediately.”

Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenant Organization called Newark’s response and the lack of “typical” behavior of a statewide rental commission.

“They have the power to do outreach and investigations, but they rarely use that power, preferring to wait for complaints to magically manifest themselves,” he said.

Tenants say the city should do more, and at least management would be able to proactively warn residents that rent increases are wrong.

“Management sends regular emails about important issues, such as reminders that pets must not be allowed to defecate in elevators or hallways,” August said. No email has been sent regarding the defective lease renewal.”

Rashid agreed, saying he was still waiting for the rent adjustments to be reflected in his account.

“They should have put up something in the lobby and put up signs about the rent increase and freeze so everyone knew.

Management companies can easily audit all leases renewed in the past year and give residents refunds or credits for overpaid rent, Afolo said.

“Why make this a worst case scenario?” she said.

If you are a Newark resident who believes your rent has been illegally increased and you live in a rent-controlled unit, please call (973) 733-3675 or email us. . [email protected].

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Research Editor Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report.

Contact Karin Price Mueller at: [email protected]Follow her on Twitter. @KPMueller.

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