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Lake Valley Associates, LLC v. Township of Pemberton

February 1, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Docket No. L-2669-06.

Per curiam.



Argued November 18, 2009

Before Judges Stern, Sabatino and Lyons.

Plaintiff, a limited liability company that owns and operates a 450-unit apartment complex in Pemberton Township, appeals the Law Division's order dated March 13, 2008. The order in question dismissed plaintiff's action in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the constitutionality and statutory validity of Ordinance No. 5-2006 adopted by the Township in May 2006. The ordinance imposes certain registration obligations and other regulatory requirements on landlords within the Township.

The ordinance is aptly described in detail in the opinion of the trial judge, Judge John A. Sweeney, as follows:

The [Landlord Registration Ordinance] amends Chapter 148 of the Township Code entitled "Rental Properties." Section 1 contains definitions essential to the ordinance. Section 2 requires registration of all rental units with the Building Code Official on forms prescribed for that purpose. It also requires registration immediately upon the adoption of the ordinance and upon every change in occupancy. If there has been no change in occupancy within a three-year period, the owner of the rental unit must register on the first of January following the expiration of the three-year period.

Section 3 requires each rental unit to be registered and licensed, and Section 4 relates to inspections and requires at least one inspection every three years or upon change of occupancy. Otherwise, inspections are made only as necessitated by safety considerations. The purpose of the inspections is to determine compliance with the Township Zoning Ordinance and to ascertain whether the property complies with the Housing Code and/or Building Code and/or Uniform Fire Safety Code and/or the Property Maintenance Code. Corrections of violations must be made within [thirty] days unless they are deemed to require immediate action.

Section 5 of the ordinance prohibits the occupation of a unit that is not licensed or registered. Section 6 provides for the issuance of a license for a [three-year] period and Section 7 deals with the payment of fees. Section 8 requires owners, managing agents, superintendents, janitors, custodians, or other employees of the record owner to supply their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Either the managing agent or an individual representing the owner must also provide a cellular telephone number. That section also requires the name and address of every mortgage holder to be listed. Additionally, it requires the name and address of the fuel oil dealer, a specification of the exact number of sleeping rooms and sleeping accommodations, the names, addresses and phone numbers of all rental agencies, the number of occupants of each rental unit and whether or not the landlord has conducted a tenant screening for each new tenant.

Section 9 requires that the registration forms be available for public inspection. Sections 10 and 11 are irrelevant to this opinion. Section 12 places limitations on occupancy and Section 13 makes it a violation of the Code for the posted maximum number of occupants to be exceeded. Section 13 also provides for the police or Code Enforcement Official to issue summonses for violations of this chapter of the Code. Section 14 requires the payment of taxes and other municipal charges.

Section 15 requires tenant screening at a change of occupancy. The record owner is required to conduct tenant screening for new occupants. Such screening includes a check for activity in the landlord/tenant section of the Special Civil Part of the Superior Court; Municipal Court convictions for the past [three] years; and convictions for offenses in the Superior Court for a period of [three] years.

Section 16 provides for access by police and code officials on [forty-eight] hours notice except in cases of emergency. Section 17 provides for occupant standards.

Section 18, the most controversial portion of the ordinance, deals with revocation of the license issued to registered owners by the Township. Revocation or suspension of the license by the Township Council can ...

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