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Modular Concepts Inc. v. South Brunswick Township

Decided: January 12, 1977.

MODULAR CONCEPTS, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-RESPONDENT,
v.
SOUTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP AND SOUTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS AND CROSS-APPELLANTS, AND MONMOUTH MOBILE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INTERVENING DEFENDANTS, RESPONDENTS AND CROSS-APPELLANTS



Bischoff, Morgan and E. Gaulkin.

Per Curiam

This appeal from judgments in three consolidated cases concerns the validity of an amendment to an existing rent-leveling ordinance and of rent increases under the prior ordinance for two consecutive years.

The written stipulation of facts upon which the trial court disposition was based discloses that rent control came to defendant South Brunswick Township in 1973 when the South Brunswick Township Committee (township committee) adopted Ordinance 29-73 in response to what it conceived to be a "serious condition" in the township "with respect to the rental of housing space in multiple dwellings not subject to rent regulation." Ordinance 29-73 limited rent increases to changes in the Consumer Price Index. Pursuant to that ordinance plaintiff, the owner and operator of a mobile home park, increased its tenants' rents on February 1, 1974 and again on February 1, 1975. Both increases were challenged by way of appeal before the Rent Leveling Board (board). The board held them valid; on further appeal taken by some of the tenants the township committee reversed the action of the board and ruled in favor of the tenants. The ruling with respect to the two rent increases constituted two of the three consolidated cases before the trial court.

On June 23, 1975 defendant adopted "An Ordinance Amending the Revised General Ordinances of the Township of South Brunswick 1975 by Revising Chapter XIII Rent Control" (hereinafter Ordinance 21-75), which ordinance

became effective on June 30, 1975. The third consolidated matter before the trial court, and now before us, is plaintiff's challenge to the validity of Ordinance 21-75.

The trial judge sustained the validity of the ordinance and ruled in plaintiff's favor on the rent increases enforced pursuant to the prior ordinance. Plaintiff appeals the trial judge's ruling sustaining the ordinance and tenant-intervenors cross appeal from the ruling on the two rent increases.

Plaintiff's challenge to Ordinance 21-75

Plaintiff's contention that Ordinance 21-75 is not applicable to its mobile park facility because it was subject to rent control under Ordinance 21-73 is clearly without merit. Mobile home space is expressly made subject to rent regulation in the ordinance under consideration. See §§ 13-2*fn1 and 13-3*fn2 thereof. The preamble, § 13-1, upon which plaintiff relies, and which declares a "serious condition" existent in the township concerning the "rental of housing place [sic] and multiple dwellings not subject to rent regulation," does not, as plaintiff suggests, exclude plaintiff's facility because it was regulated under the prior ordinance. Rather the preamble merely restates the reasons for its adoption as of the time the original ordinance, Ordinance 21-73,

was adopted. Clearly, the township did not intend that only later created mobile home parks and multiple dwellings be regulated by the later amendment and those in existence during the earlier enactment be regulated by the earlier ordinance. No such dual scheme of regulation is apparent from 21-75.

Plaintiff next challenges, as facially confiscatory, arbitrary and unreasonable, the validity of that portion of § 13-2 of Ordinance No. 21-75 which defines the base rent figure upon which the allowable percentage rent increase is to be calculated. It reads as follows:

"Rental income" means the payable rent charged and received for the housing space or dwelling over the previous twelve (12) month period exclusive of any of the following: all real property taxes, space fees charged by the Township of South Brunswick pursuant to any duly adopted ordinance, and any cost of utilities if the same are provided for by the ...


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