Matthews, Lora and Morgan.
Plaintiff's complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenged (1) the amendment to the Union rent control ordinance which limited annual rental increases on residential apartment leases to 5% of the rent provided in the previous year's lease and (2) defendants' interpretation of the tax surcharge provisions of § 5 of the ordinance.
Those portions of the judgment of the Law Division relating to the constitutional and exhaustion of administrative remedies issues raised by appellant are affirmed. Hutton Park Gardens v. West Orange Town Council , and Cosden v. Wayne Tp. , 68 N.J. 543 (1975); Brunetti v. New Milford , 68 N.J. 576 (1975), and Troy Hills v. Parsippany-Troy Hills Tp. , 68 N.J. 604 (1975).
The only viable issue for our determination is whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, the Union Rent Leveling Board erred when it interpreted the Union rent control ordinance to preclude appellant from passing on to its tenants the increases in real estate taxes from 1972 through 1974.
The tax surcharge sections of the Union rent control ordinance provide:
Section 5. A landlord may seek a tax surcharge from a tenant because of an increase in municipal property taxes. The tax surcharge shall not exceed that amount authorized by the following provisions. The landlord shall divide the increase in the present property tax over the property tax of the previous year by the number of square feet in the dwelling to obtain the tax increase per square foot. The tenant shall not be liable for a tax surcharge exceeding the tax increase per square foot multiplied by the number of square feet occupied by the tenant.
Section 6. Any landlord seeking a surcharge shall notify the tenant by certified mail of the calculations involved in computing the tax surcharge including the present property tax for the dwelling, the property tax for the dwelling for the previous year, the number of square feet in the dwelling, the tax increase per square foot, the number of square feet occupied by the tenant and the maximum allowable surcharge.
Section 7. The tax surcharge each tenant is liable for shall be paid in 6 monthly payments, commencing July 1st of each year.
Section 8. The tax surcharge shall not be considered rent for purposes of computing cost of living rental increases.
Plaintiff asserts that in 1973 the property taxes paid on its property in Union increased by $11,025.57 over the 1972 level. This increase was passed on to the tenants by way of tax surcharge. In 1974 the property tax increased by $27,196.40 over the 1972 level and by $16,170.83 over the 1973 level.
It is plaintiff's contention that the phrase "property tax of the previous year" means that the previous year is the year prior to the enactment of the ordinance in 1972. Defendants and the trial judge construed "previous year" to be the ...