Press Release
Senator Jennifer Beck Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11)
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Contact: Shawna Sullivan / (732) 933-1591
June 2, 2017
Senators Beck and Rice Launch Effort to Hold Negligent Landlords Accountable for Deplorable, Unsanitary Rental Housing Conditions

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Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) have introduced legislation (S-3270), the “Safe Sanitary Subsidized Rental Housing Bill of Rights,” to hold negligent landlords accountable for dangerous, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions in subsidized housing. The bill addresses the deplorable living conditions uncovered in the recent Asbury Park Press (APP) investigative series, “Renter Hell,” which found children and families living side by side with rats and cockroaches, crumbling walls and ceilings, a lack of  heat and hot water, and human waste. Many of sites investigated were in Asbury Park and Newark.

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)

“Landlords are evading local, state and federal enforcement while simultaneously allowing families to live in unimaginable squalor and collecting a pay check from our taxpayers,” said Beck. “It must stop. As New Jersey residents, we cannot allow our neighbors to live with dozens of rats and walls covered in cockroaches while taxpayers are footing the bill.”

Senator Rice added, “For decades I have fought for the tenants of Garden Spires and Pueblo City, but bad landlords and ineffective government oversight has allowed these complexes to continue to operate in a deteriorated, unlivable condition. There is a systematic failure here. Taxpayers are funding this housing and it must be safe, sanitary and code compliant.”

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.

“When a serious issue needs to be addressed, like a broken furnace in winter or hordes of rats running across the dinner table, the State and housing authorities should withhold some portion of the rent until those violations are fixed,” said Beck. “We shouldn’t allow landlords to cash in on taxpayer dollars when they leave our residents to live in these abhorrent conditions. This bill gives our government entities a hammer to bring down on negligent landlords.”

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.

On Tuesday, Senator Beck met with Asbury Park officials, Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton, and Director of Property Improvement and Neighborhood Preservation, Robert McKeon, to discuss the legislation. They also visited 1215 Springwood Avenue in Asbury Park to see progress on repairs to units highlighted in the “Renter Hell” series. The complex has since been taken over by new management, and a complete renovation of the units is underway to ensure the safety of the residents.

“Our visit to Asbury Park represents the start of our efforts to ensure that the legislation does everything it needs to do to help improve the lives of local families,” said Beck. “We need to get this right. Nobody should have to live or raise their children in unsafe or unsanitary conditions, it is not acceptable to allow this to continue.”

Beck highlighted the bipartisan nature of the legislation, which addresses problems faced by tenants across New Jersey.

“As legislators, we should be working together to solve our state’s most important issues, and I’m honored to partner with Senator Rice to sponsor this bill,” Beck added. “The horrifying conditions that some residents are forced to live in due to landlord neglect are unconscionable. This is a serious issue affecting families and children in every corner of the state, and it’s one that deserves a strong, unified response from the Legislature.”

Related Facebook Post:
https://www.facebook.com/jenbecknj/posts/10155129521615781

Related Tweet:
https://twitter.com/jenbecknj/status/870745795569602560

Website Post:
http://www.senatenj.com/index.php/beck/senators-beck-and-rice-launch-effort-to-hold-negligent-landlords-accountable-for-deplorable-unsanitary-rental-housing-conditions/33410