Manufactured Housing Laws and Legislation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In New Jersey municipal laws and regulations have tremendous impact for homeowners and residents of manufactured housing communities.

Rent Control (and decontrol), Zoning, and Municipal Fees are some important local policy items that have direct effect on residents and homeowners. Residents and homeowners can have a big influence in their local towns on ordinances and rules. In many areas the residents of manufactured housing are a strong voting block and they can ask their Council members to protect their interests, and they show their support or displeasure in the voting booth!

Rent Control limits the rental increases and many municipalities in New Jersey have enacted rent control ordinances that cover manufactured housing communities. More than 100 cities and townships in New Jersey have passed rent control ordinances. To find out if your city or township has rent control and if it covers your unit, you should call your city or township hall. You can ask for a copy of the city’s or town’s rent control ordinance. The ordinance will state how much and how often your rent can be raised. Statewide muncipaal rent control survey from 2009

Many of the municipalities that have rent control have also enacted vacancy decontrol which allows the landlord to raise the rents when new homeowners come into the community. This is particularly bad for owners of manufactured housing in land lease communities as it makes it hard to sell homes and the new owners have dramatic rent increases. According to New Jersey Tenant Organization (NJTO) 85% of the municipalities that have rent control also have vacancy decontrol.

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In a recent review of the state of rent control across the U.S. Shelterforce had this to say about New Jersey and its formerly strong rent control policies.

 

.... New Jersey:

Local Inroads, Strong State

In New Jersey, long the battleground and site of major tenant rent control victories, a number of factors have led to erosion of tenant power. Two decades of vigorous landlord political activity at the state and local levels have begun to yield a shift of power in their favor. Landlord-sponsored voter referenda, a massive tax appeal campaign (see Shelterforce #55) and co-op and condo conversions have taxed the tenant movement’s resources. In addition, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, public opposition to increases in the state income tax and local property taxes led to the election of conservatives at all levels of government. Demagogic attacks on tax increases strained the already tenuous alliance between homeowners and tenants. In the state legislature, this has manifested itself as a barrage of anti-tenant legislation which has placed the New Jersey Tenant Organization (NJTO) in a constantly defensive position.


At the local level, landlords have chipped away at local rent control laws through the divide and conquer strategy of vacancy decontrol. While tenant leaders understand the long-term negative consequences of vacancy decontrol, it has been difficult to mobilize large numbers of tenants in opposition since the policy does not affect them directly. Landlords have also lambasted rent control as a cause of homeowners’ property tax hikes, which has caused weakness in overall tenant-homeowner unity.

As a result, there has been a widespread enactment of vacancy decontrol measures in municipal rent control laws. Eighty percent of New Jersey’s 115 rent-controlled municipalities now have some form of vacancy decontrol. More than half have full vacancy decontrol that allows rents to be raised to market levels before coming under rent control again. Two cities, Bloomfield and Passaic, have recently implemented permanent vacancy decontrol measures that will phase out rent control. In towns with full vacancy decontrol, rents have quickly risen to market levels, exacerbating the already acute housing affordability crisis in New Jersey.

Landlords have carried their anti–rent control campaign to the state legislature, but unlike Massachusetts and California, they haven’t been successful. The NJTO is still an effective electoral force in the heavily populated northern counties in the state, and in spite of persistent opposition, rent control has become a valued part of the political landscape in more than 20 percent of the state’s municipalities. Also, the issue of home rule steers many conservative state legislators away from the issue.

Nonetheless, landlords maintain the offensive in the state legislature. In March 1997, Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll introduced legislation to end rent control in the year 2000 for all apartments renting for more than $750 per month, which is well below the average rent in the state. Carroll’s bill also would have prohibited the enactment of any future local rent control laws. Following this bill’s introduction, then-Governor Christie Todd Whitman called for the establishment of a Landlord-Tenant Task Force to make recommendations on rent control and related property tax issues; the Governor recommended members who would be overwhelmingly supportive of the real estate industry’s interests.

The NJTO was given one seat on the 10-member commission. The remaining members were to come from the statewide landlord, builder, banking and bar associations and the state legislature – one Republican leader from each house. The NJTO organized a statewide campaign that mobilized local tenant associations, labor unions, community development organizations, housing advocacy groups and New Jersey Citizen Action to expand the task force’s composition. As a result of NJTO’s efforts, Governor Whitman added representatives from the New Jersey Mobile Homeowners Association and the New Jersey Housing Community Development Network, and the New Jersey Bar Association named a prominent legal services attorney as its representative.


To date, the task force has not issued its report, and tenant lobbying successfully ended the life of the Carroll bill during the 1999 legislative session. Undaunted, Assemblyman Carroll has introduced a new bill that would impose permanent vacancy decontrol throughout the state. However, this legislation appears to be dead on arrival due to considerable tenant opposition.

 

The previous passage was extracted from Rent Control In The New Millennium
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By Dennis Keating and Mitch Kahn, May/June 2001 NHI Shelterforce online edition


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Zoning is important for preserving your community and for stability and tenure in your home. Local zoning has been used more often to exclude manufactured housing and to limit the placement of manufactured housing to specific areas of the town. However zoning that permits manufactured housing is protective for manufactured communities. A certain degree of protection against changes of use (such as the building of a shopping center) exists when the zoning only allows manufactured housing.

Homeowners in manufactured housing communities need to be vigilant in making sure that the zoning for their community is for manufactured housing and that new or overlay zoning for other uses is not enacted. Currently in New Jersey manufactured home owners who's homes are on leased land DO NOT get notices of intended zoning changes. All municipalities have planning documents called Master Plans. Homeowners and residents should get involved in the planning process and underrstand what plans the town has for their homes.

Some municipalities have embedded protections for homeowners and residents of manufactured housing into the zoning for these communities. A zoning ordinance can require that a property owner submit relocation or compensation plans for residents before a new usage is approved.
 
Municipal Fees are imposed by some municipalities on manufactured housing communities. These fees are set by municipal ordinance. There is currently a bill in the state legislature that would limit the permitted increases of these fee amounts. 

Rent Increases and Control

Local Documents & Ordinances