Judge Reverses Montclair Rent Control Ruling; Special Election Possible for Ordinance

Montclair, NJ – The Township of Montclair announced that Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Beacham earlier today reversed his January 15 ruling on the Township’s rent control ordinance, adopted April 7, and ordered the Township Clerk to certify the Montclair Property Owners Association petition to put the ordinance on a ballot as a referendum question.

The ordinance will now go back to Township Council. If the Council chooses not to repeal the ordinance, the Municipal Clerk will schedule a special election which could be held in late April or early May.

The Council could also decide to appeal the court’s decision.

“We are deeply disappointed that the judge ruled in favor of the landlord group, which was given 10 times the normal length of time to secure its signatures – and which failed to compile enough signatures even then, in the careful eyes of the Town Clerk. Whatever happens now, the Tenants Organization of Montclair is secure in knowing that moderate rent control represents the will of the people of Montclair,” says AhavaFelicidad, president and Toni Martin, vice president of Tenants Organization of Montclair.

“If the matter eventually goes to referendum, we will win. Tenants have been denied any reasonable protections for decades, in fact, forever in this township. This needs to change. We hope to see this go to a higher court to have our rent control implemented as deserved by the residents of this township,” TOOM adds.

Montclair Property Owners Association released a statement, saying that Judge Beacham “came to the decision after finding that Montclair’s Town Clerk acted arbitrarily and capriciously in rejecting nearly 200 signatures of Registered Montclair voters.”

“Today the Honorable Judge Jeffrey Beacham reconsidered his January 15, 2021 ruling and ordered that the Clerk of the Township of Montclair certify the referendum petition that the clerk had previously rejected,” said the petitioners’ Attorney Charles X. Gormally, who also was supported by the Montclair Property Owners Association.

By ruling the Town Clerk to accept those previously rejected signatures, the MPOA’s Petition holds a total of 1197 signatures on a requirement of 1020.

“Here is a government entity, an elected body, that under the cover of a declared public health emergency attempted to pass a rent control ordinance in defiance of executive orders,” says Montclair Property Owners Association Executive Director Ron Simoncini. “Despite urgent testimony from property owners who were never included in the dialogue about rent control the Council then has endeavored with all its might to deprive the voters of having their day at the ballot – to the point where its Clerk flaunted standard review procedures.

Judge Beacham had previously stated he would sign an order dismissing the lawsuit brought against the Township of Montclair by the Montclair Property Owners Association.

Judge Beacham agreed to stay the order until February 19 when the Montclair Property Owners Association (MPOA) were scheduled to argue at a hearing on the motion for reconsideration. MPOA had filed a motion asking the court to reevaluate its ruling on petitions that had been rejected in the group’s efforts to have the issue of rent control on the ballot.

Montclair Council had voted to adopt the historic rent control ordinance, first introduced on March 10 council meeting, on April 8, 2020.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “The Tenants Organization of Montclair is secure in knowing that moderate rent control represents the will of the people of Montclair”. The Tenants Organization has consistently acted not confident, but afraid to let Montclair residents have a say in the matter. “Toom” has done everything in their power to deny residents a seat at the table and a vote on a referendum.

    The ordinance in question was hurriedly adopted at the height of the municipal election campaign in response to political pressure from a small segment of the population. There is little reasonable or moderate about the adopted ordinance, which includes a provision that requires landlords to obtain their former tenants approval before being permitted to raise future rents, forces landlords to remit to tenants all refunds from successful tax appeals, and creates a large and expensive new administrative branch of our government, among other draconian provisions.

    When the taxpayers of Montclair understand the real costs of the adopted ordinance, in decreased ratables, and increased administrative costs, they might vote no on a referendum, as they have done twice in the past.

  2. I believe “I told you so” is the proper response here. https://baristanet.com/2020/10/montclair-nj-letter-to-the-editor-support-for-reasonable-rent-control/

    As noted, I support reasonable rent control given that our apartment housing market is now infused with too much speculation. The ordinance was even brought to the table late. Some would say only because of the coming Council election last spring.

    However, our town Council’s then attempt to fully implement it using undemocratic tactics against those who did not agree with the law passed, to prevent them from conducting a legally allowed public referendum, is no different than right-wing State governments trying to undermine democracy, by limiting certain classes of voters from participating in an election.

    The rent control issue here in 2021 needs to win from an affirmative vote of Township residents. “The will of the people” — which is the real concept behind the judge’s self-reversed ruling. Especially since it did not pass twice in the past. Not by politically instructing our Town Clerk to hunt for missing signature “chads” during a pandemic — in order to prevent a real vote.