Montclair rent control ordinance is scheduled for June 3. (Photo: Shutterstock.com) A court hearing on the Montclairrent control ordinance is scheduled for June 3. (Photo:Shutterstock.com)

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MONTCLAIR, NJ—Essex County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey R.Beacham issued a Temporary Restraining Order on Friday enjoiningthe Township of Montclair from instituting its recently enactedrent control law.

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The Temporary Restraining Order issued by Judge Beacham providesthat Montclair cannot take any action to implement the rent controlordinance that was passed by the Township Council on April 5.

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A hearing on the Temporary Restraining Order has been scheduledfor June 3. The township has a deadline of May 8 to show cause andfile its opposition to the TRO, while the Committee of Petitionersand the Montclair Property Owners Association, which filed suitagainst the township's rent control law on April 15, has to filepapers in opposition to the township's court filing by May 26.

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On April 7, the Montclair Town Council voted 5-0 with twoabstentions to approve rent control in the township. The new lawlimits annual rent increases to 4.25%. For apartments in which atleast one tenant is 65 years of age or older, the maximum annualpermissible rent increase is 2.5%.

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According to the new rent control law, approximately 40% of theresidents of the Township of Montclair live in rental housing unitsranging from single-family homes to multiple dwellings of more than100 units.

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"Not only does this order validate our claim under the law inthis specific case, it is a warning to all municipalities who,under the cover of emergency, would seek to passpolitically-motivated legislation at a time when the public, bothpractically and legally, is deprived of its right to express itselfor mount challenge," says Charles Gormally of Brach Eichler,attorney for the Committee of Petitioners.

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The Committee of Petitioners challenged the implementation ofthe rent control ordinance based on its inability to pursue areferendum, due to restrictions imposed to prevent the spread ofthe Coronavirus.

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The Montclair Property Owners Association, which was formed inresponse to what it terms was the sudden introduction of theordinance, is made up of the owners of 1,175 apartments inMontclair that would be subject to rent control under the enjoinedlaw.

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"To a person, neither the committee nor any of our members hadany idea the ordinance would be introduced because it was notadvertised for first reading," Ron Simoncini, executive director ofthe Montclair Property Owners Association, says. "The claims bytenant advocates that the ordinance was 'studied, debated,negotiated, revised and ultimately produced by the Township Councilunanimously last month is fair to property owners,'… and thatproperty owners' interests were 'taken into account' is aridiculous contention."

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.