Ward E Councilperson James Solomon Reports Massive Rent Control Violations, Calls On City to Take Action
JERSEY CITY, NJ – Responding to Jersey City’s housing-cost crisis, Ward E Councilperson James Solomon today released an in-depth report on the troubling state of rent control in Downtown. The report, which follows a six-month grassroots effort by Solomon’s office and a team of local volunteers, documents a pattern of skyrocketing rent increases, profit-driven tenant displacement, and landlords who frequently flout disclosure requirements without consequence.
“Our report leads to a stark conclusion: The system of rent control in Jersey City is broken. Landlords operate with near impunity while tenants live unaware of their rights.” says Solomon.
Over 50% of tenants interviewed by Solomon’s team did not know they lived in a rent-controlled unit, and more than 90% reported not being given the legally-required rental statement disclosing the previous tenants’ rent. Seventy-eight percent of landlords’ annual rent registration forms failed to disclose required information that could identify illegal rent increases.
The report further documents a recurring pattern of unchecked, likely illegal rent increases resulting in mass displacement of long-term residents. In Ward E, some rent-controlled apartments cost as much as $5,850 a month. Over 50% of tenants moved into their units within the last seven years–a shocking statistic given the monetary value of a rent controlled unit. In extreme cases, some landlords have managed to demolish their rent-controlled buildings outright, permanently removing residents’ access to moderately-priced units without the property’s rent-control status ever being questioned during the demolition approval process.
Solomon concluded with an eight-point call for action from the City:
Maintain a publicly searchable database of all rent controlled units in Jersey City with rents listed.
Engage in proactive outreach to tenants to alert them that they live in a rent controlled unit.
Fine landlords who submit incomplete rent registrations while offering education on how to fill out disclosure forms properly.
Analyze “rent rolls” for evidence of illegal rent increases or high rates of turnover.
Encourage tenants who may be subject to illegal rent increases to contest them.
Simplify and streamline the process by which tenants challenge illegal rent increases.
End the “vacancy loophole” for capital repairs, removing the perverse incentive for landlords to push out tenants in order to increase rents.
End the “demolition loophole” to stop the permanent loss of units.
To reach these conclusions, the report cross-referenced public tax records to come up with a list properties subject to rent control; spent months knocking on doors to hear from tenants first-hand; and combed through 1,290 mostly handwritten unit rent records from landlord rent registration rolls obtained through the Open Public Records Act.
To read the full report, use this link: http://bit.ly/rentcontrol_
James Solomon represents downtown Jersey City as the Ward E Councilperson. He’s focused on a building a just city, with affordable housing and improved mass transit, bicycling, and pedestrian infrastructure. He is also an adjunct professor of political science at Saint Peter’s University, New Jersey City University, and Hudson County Community College. He’s married to Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon. They have a beautiful daughter, Camila Nicole Solomon.