JERSEY CITY, NJ - While discussions on the varying measures continue, members of the Jersey City City Council appear poised to take action on rent freezes and a ban on late fees at their next meeting.
An initial ordinance crafted by the Fulop Administration was introduced in early April to freeze rents on apartments regulated under rent control, followed by Solomon’s stab at the policy that was brought forward on April 22.
Under Solomon’s original draft, which also prohibits landlords from imposing a late fee on those renters who cannot pay rent in a timely manner because of the COVID-19 economic situation, all residential properties would have been exempted from rent increases during the public health emergency.
Considering concerns raised by Councilman Richard Boggiano that this would hurt property owners who live in these buildings and are also struggling to pay taxes and well as other expenses, Solomon agreed to revise his ordinance to exempt owner occupied residences of up to four units.
Solomon also agreed to put a time limit on the freeze to Aug. 1 rather than waiting for Gov. Phil Murphy to rescind the state of emergency statewide. “These amendments are a joint effort of all these council members,” Solomon said.
Saying that “homeowners have more options than renters do,” including mortgage forbearance, Solomon said the ordinance would provide protection to renters who he fears could fall victim to unscrupulous landlords that raise rents during the crisis in efforts to evict them later. “Renters do not have the same protections.”
“We are in a crisis of unprecedented proportions,” Councilman Rolando Lavaro said pointing out that 70 percent of residents live in rental apartments. Many of these people, he said, are immigrants and people of color. “We have to demonstrate we are up to the severity of this challenge.”
Agreeing with Boggiano that landlords are also being hit by the crisis, Councilman Jermaine Robinson suggested that he and his colleagues “have to make sure to give incentives to get people to pay their rent,” while Councilwoman Denise Ridley shared her concern that even with forbearance property owners will still owe the money following the emergency.
“Even with mortgage forbearance, property owners will still owe the money after the end of the emergency. Some banks will put notes on credit reports causing homeowners’ credit scores to go down,” she said.
Lavarro shared that ultimately he believes most people will pay their rent. “This freeze should not encourage people to stop paying,” he said.
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