TOMS RIVER – The Township Council approved an ordinance that would cause landlords to lose their rental certificate of occupancy if their tenants committed crimes.
The township attorney said this measure would give landlords the ability to remove bad tenants, but one landlord advocate voiced concern that it could unintentionally hurt landlords.
The ordinance creates a new article in the chapter of the township code that governs “Housing and Rental Property Standards.”
The new language states that the rental certificate of occupancy may be revoked or suspended if one of the several things occur, including:
- A tenant is convicted of a crime or offense
- A tenant is using the property in an unsafe way
- Criminal or illegal activity takes place on the premises, even if such activity does not result in an arrest or charge.
- Behavior that disturbs the “peace and quiet enjoyment of the surrounding neighborhood.”
The landlord could have their rental certificate of occupancy revoked or suspended for up to one year. They would have to be re-inspected before being available for rent again. The certificate of occupancy is required for someone to live there.
Nick Zorojew, the executive director of Downtown Toms River, often speaks at meetings on behalf of the business community, and that includes landlords. He questioned if it was fair for a landlord to lose a source of income because of something that their tenant did.
“How on Earth would a landlord know if any of that is going on?” he asked.
The township attorney, Kenneth Fitzsimmons, said the ordinance is meant to protect the township as well as the landlord. If the landlord wants to get rid of a bad tenant, this ordinance would give them the ability to do so. The landlord would then be able to get their certificate back and rent to a better tenant.
Zorojew said he was still uncertain about the ordinance. He said he assumed that the township would work with the landlord to get their certificate back quickly so that they are not out rental revenue for too long. The language in the ordinance saying that they could be without a certificate for as long as a year was worrisome.
The ordinance has additional language that looks at landlord behavior.
The rental certificate of occupancy can also be suspended if taxes are delinquent for three consecutive quarters. If they are not paid within 30 days, the certificate would be revoked for a year.
The certificate can also be revoked after the third notice of code violations. If found guilty, the certificate would be revoked for a year. If the charges are dropped, the certificate is returned after an inspection.
If the landlord or property owner gets three notices for renting without first obtaining a rental certificate of occupancy, they will be barred from obtaining one for a year.
The ordinance also describes the appeal process if a landlord wants to challenge the revocation of the certificate.