Designed to protect senior citizen tenants in New Jersey, three bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Jamel Holley, Annette Chaparro, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty and Yvonne Lopez that focus on security as well as tenant-landlord relationship protection were approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on Monday.
“Simply put, everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Senior citizens are often seen as easy targets by criminals. They can also be easy targets for landlord fraud. These bills help to protect seniors on all fronts – by increasing protection in terms of safety as well as the rights they have as tenants, regardless of age.”
The first bill (A-1418) sponsored by McKnight, Chiaravalloti and Holley would require high-rise apartment buildings for seniors that are located in high crime areas to provide 24-hour security.
If the building consists of 75 dwelling units or more, the security obligation must be met through 24-hour monitoring by on-site security guards. If the building consists of at least 50, but fewer than 75 dwelling units, this obligation may be satisfied through the use of video surveillance cameras operated 24 hours a day, recording all building exits and entrances, as well as any common areas, including parking lots, where criminal incidents have occurred within the past 12 months.
“As rent payers, these residents have a right to feel safe,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Having a security guard posted in these buildings can help prevent unwanted individuals from getting inside and causing trouble. A building owner may not be able to prevent what goes on outside the building, but should provide tenants with a sense of security inside the building.”
“Security is integral whether you live in a house or an apartment building. In neighborhoods where crime is a problem, even more so,” said Holley (D-Union). “Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and criminals see them as easy marks. Having around the clock security can help keep people with bad intentions out, and give these tenants some much needed peace of mind.”
Another bill (A-3698), sponsored by McKnight, Chaparro and Downey, prohibits a landlord of a senior citizen housing project from assessing late charges against a senior citizen tenant who was unable to make a timely rental payment due to being admitted to a health care facility. The bill would allow for a grace period of five days after being discharged from the facility.
“The health of our residents should always be a priority,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “This bill will protect our senior citizens who are unable to pay rent when they are away from their home as they are focusing on their health – which is something they should not, under any circumstance, be penalized for.”
“Life happens, and it can sometimes be impossible to predict a hospital visit,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “If that is the case, it is of no fault of the tenant who is not physically able to deliver or mail their rent. It is only right that we put our senior citizens’ health first, and allow them the recovery time they need without the worry of how much extra money they will have to put towards rent when they get home.”
The third bill (A-4397) sponsored by Mosquera, Moriarty and Lopez would require landlords of senior citizen housing projects to provide, in writing, a rent increase notice and an explanation of why the rent is increasing for their tenants.
“Many senior citizens are living on a fixed-income, which can make it difficult to handle a surprise increase in their rent,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill will help to provide ample notice and just reasoning for an increase to rent, which will allow seniors to plan for these changes accordingly.”
“It is no secret that renting a home in New Jersey can be costly,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This alone is already a challenge for so many of our seniors living in retirement communities, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. The goal of this bill is to eliminate the extra stress of sudden rent increases that could make these communities unaffordable for seniors as well as strengthen the relationship between tenants and their landlords.”
“Our senior community includes some of our state’s most vulnerable residents, and it is imperative that we protect them in every way we can,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “This bill will help senior citizens feel more comfortable in their homes as opposed to constantly worrying about whether they will have to leave as a result of potential last-minute increases of living costs.”