On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
Dreier and Baime. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.
[224 NJSuper Page 590] The parties have cross-appealed from a decision rendered in the Law Division. The Caldwell Rent Leveling Board (interchangeably referred to as the Rent Review Board and the Rent Leveling Board) assessed a $19,250 penalty against plaintiff based upon plaintiff's failure to have common-area smoke detectors
installed in its 110-unit apartment building. The penalty was assessed on the basis of $175 per unit. Plaintiff sought review in the Law Division by an action in lieu of prerogative writs. The judge in a letter opinion found that there was but one violation, and amended the penalty for that violation to $1,000. Defendant appeals contending that the original penalty should be enforced. Plaintiff cross-appeals contending that no penalty could properly have been assessed by the Board. We determine here that the penalty was improperly imposed by the Board and that the procedures employed at the municipal level and Law Division fail to comply with governing law and practice.
Plaintiff, which had been licensed under a predecessor ordinance, applied for and received a new rent license from the Rent Review Board under the Township's 1985 Rent Control Ordinance. The landlord complied with the eight substantive and procedural requirements of the application as set forth in section 6(b) of the ordinance:
(b) Landlords of dwellings shall file certified applications for rent licenses on or before July 1 of each year with the Executive Secretary of the Rent Review Board. Said application shall contain the following information:
(i) Names and addresses of the following persons: Landlord; Managing Agent for Landlord, if any; and Superintendent in charge of the dwelling.
(ii) Number of housing space units in the dwelling.
(iii) Base rent for the month of August of the year in which the license is to be issued for each housing space and the number of parking spaces included in said base rent for each housing unit together with the fees for all of the parking spaces that are not included in the base rent.
(iv) Number and identification of all housing space units which were vacant or about to become vacant on August 1 of the year in which the license is to be issued.
(v) The effective dates of the most recent rent increases for each housing space unit and the reasons therefore if in addition to automatic increases provided by the Ordinance.
(vi) The amount, type and period of time covered for all surcharges on the base rent of each housing space unit effective as of August 1 of the ...