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Collins v. Albro

296 N.J. Super. 191, 686 A.2d 765 (App. Div. 1996)

MUNICIPALITIES; RENT CONTROL—Under a particular rent control ordinance, complaints of illegal increases cannot be made later than two years after the effective date of the disputed increase. Payment of rent increases for two consecutive years is an agreed increase and not subject to the rent control ordinance, provided that the landlord served the tenant with the required rental statement.

The owner of a Jersey City apartment house challenged the decision of the Jersey City Rent Leveling Board that an apartment rental should be rolled back and an appropriate refund be made. The applicable ordinance requires that complaints of illegal increases must be filed not later than two years after the effective date of the disputed increase. It also provides that payment of rental increases for two consecutive years by a tenant that received a required Rental Statement is deemed to be an agreed upon increase.

The complaining tenant leased his apartment from a prior owner of the building. The immediately preceding tenant had been paying an otherwise illegal rental for more than two years prior to the complaining tenant’s lease and both the old tenant and the complaining tenant had been served with an appropriate Rental Statement. In the Court’s view, the ordinance was clear—a complaint must be filed within two years of the effective date of the disputed increase. Nothing in the ordinance grants a fresh two year objection period to each new tenant. The Appellate Division’s rationale was that the limitations section of the ordinance satisfied the need for repose in fixing property values for purposes such as taxation, mortgage financing and other legitimate business decisions.


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