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Garcia Sponsors Pro-Tenant Bill to Monitor Rental Increases Ensuring Renters’ Protection

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrat Carmelo Garcia (D-Hudson) has introduced legislation to ensure that New Jersey seniors and working families who live in housing regulated in some way by the NJHMFA are not unfairly imposed upon by rent increases.

The legislation (A-3180) limits a tenant’s responsibility for paying rental increases in certain state-financed housing that has been subsidized by and is subject to the rent control rules of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

“Recent increases in the price of home heating oil have caused drastic increases in the operating costs of many landlords who provide utilities,” Garcia said. “Landlords of projects financed in part by HMFA are permitted to seek rent increases according to HMFA guidelines. For low income tenants on fixed incomes, rent increases over 5 percent can put their tenancy in jeopardy.”

The bill would require the agency to hold a hearing prior to the granting of a rent increase in any project subject to HMFA regulations. For any rental increases approved in projects with project-based federal rent subsidies, or in projects financed by the agency, when the amount of the increase will exceed 2.5 percent annually for tenants aged 62 or older, or 5 percent for other tenants in the project, the agency must reimburse or subsidize the tenants rent for those amounts exceeding those thresholds, through the state rental assistance program created.

“The legislation aims to help ensure all rental increases are justifiable and paced appropriately,” Garcia said. “It will also help curb the nickel-and-diming of residents, especially our seniors, who are counting every penny to make ends meet. Our goal must be to keep families in their homes.”

In addition, the bill would require that the program be used to freeze the amount of rent increases at 2.5 percent for seniors and at 5 percent for persons of low-income residing in these projects, and provide a subsidy for any increase in rent approved by the HMFA beyond those amounts. The bill would apply to any rent increases granted by the agency on or after Dec. 1, 2012.

The measure has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.