NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Members of an activist organization have categorized tenant abuse in the city as "a severe issue" that is often exacerbated when landlords use a language barrier to deceive tenants.
So, they are calling on the city to require landlords to furnish copies of leases in Spanish as well as English.
The members of Central Jersey Democratic Socialists of America,(CJDSA) made the request during Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Jaime Lopez, an organizer for CJDSA, said the group has been working with tenants in New Brunswick for the past year. He said many of the tenants in the city cannot read English and therefore don't know what their rights are in matters such as rent increases and pest control.
"There was a case where a property owner, this was after foreclosure, who was legally required to give the tenant a document basically saying I cannot evict you," Lopez said. "And he turned around on this tenant and told him, 'Oh no, it says I can evict you.' So, it's leading to these outrageous abuses."
Another CJDSA member, Ayesha Mughal, said that when landlords "take advantage of tenants," they often push the matter into eviction court. She said if the tenants don't show up, the decision goes in the landlords' favor. If they do show up, they run the threat of being detained by agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Council members urged CJDSA members to report these incidents to the city's Office of Rent Control. Mughal and other CJDSA members, however, said they have found it difficult to contact that office. In fact, Lopez said, "They don't pick up the phone very often."
City Administrator Daniel A. Torrisi said that the members of the Rent Control answer the phone.
Council President John Anderson also urged the CJDSA members to use an app that will send their report to the Mayor's Office, the Department of Public Works, the Office of Rent Control and others.