The Montclair Township Council took one step closer to passing the rent control ordinance at its April 5 meeting, but there was some resistance from callers during public comment regarding owners of two-family and three-family houses.
They felt that they had been left out of the compromise ordinance that the Tenants Organization of Montclair and the Montclair Property Owners Association negotiated to head off a referendum vote.
Planning Board member Carmel Loughman, who had called during the March 15 meeting to express dissatisfaction with the ordinance for applying rent-control caps to small properties like her own if they are not owner-occupied, called again with new grievances. She said that reasons for rent increases on two-family and three-family properties that included, among others, lack of affordability were based on speculation and were unsupported by factual data, and she added that most owners of two-unit and three-unit properties have personal relationships with renters and carry out mutual agreements on rental rates. The rent reporting requirements, she said, also put a heavy onus on small-property owners to comply. Another landlady with a small rental property said that it is hard to reconcile rent caps with utility bills that the renter and the owner both have a stake in, as opposed to large rental-apartment buildings where each renter assumes separate responsibility for his or her own utility usage.
Any small-property landlord hoping for sympathy from tenants’ advocates found no such thing. Tenants Organization of Montclair leaders Ahava Felicidad and Toni Martin both expressed scorn and disgust for the concerns of small-property landlords. Felicidad insisted that small-property landlords tend to be investors rather than on-site residents, and she acidly added that such property owners had “cold hearts” and had “no understanding of the big picture” of rent control in Montclair. Martin was just as dismissive, saying that these property owners had just as much right to express their concerns while a compromise was being crafted and had been aware of efforts to produce a compromise amenable to all sides and thus had no right to complain they were “left out.”