Five tenants of Hoboken’s AvalonBay building, located at 800 Madison St., utilized the law firm of the city’s tenant advocate to file a lawsuit against their landlord up to 28.2 percent rental increases.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Lee Wigden, Aruna Wigden, Sylvia Harden, Omri Offer, and Liat Offer, through Deborah Bryant and Christina Malamut – of Rochelle Park-based law firm Sobel Han & Cannon LLP – filed suit against AvalonBay Communities, Inc. on June 9th.
The litigation was filed in the Hudson County Superior Court Chancery Division, alleging “that Defendant’s recent renewal lease rent demands are unconscionable and in violation of the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act.”
The 22-page, two-count, court filing also contends that the building violated local rent control laws since they never filed for an exemption.
“While the large majority of property owners work with their tenants to offer reasonable rent rates, it is unacceptable for other unscrupulous landlords to line their pockets with unconscionable rent increases at the expense of hardworking Hoboken tenants,” Mayor Ravi BHalla said in a statement.
“I offer my unwavering support to the tenants of the Avalon, who are bravely fighting rent increases far and above what the Avalon management should be, and are even permitted to impose. If left unchallenged, these increases would have the net effect of pricing many residents out of Hoboken. I offer my thanks to Hoboken’s tenant advocate for initiating this important litigation, to help set the standard through the courts to prevent unconscionable rent increases in Hoboken.”
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the Wigdens are facing a 23.9 percent rental increase, Harden is looking at a 26.9 percent rental hike, and the Offers are staring down a 28.2 percent raised rent.
“The Defendant’s proposed increase for a 12-month term of 28.2% or default increase of 78.9% is unconscionable, not consistent with the monthly rents of similar units in the geographical area, and will force the Offers out of the apartment which the Anti-Eviction Act is designed to prevent,” the lawsuit claims.
In an April 14th letter to AvalonBay CEO and President Benjamin W. Schall, the Hoboken mayor expressed concerns about 20 to 30 percent increases in rent at their Mile Square City location.
“While I understand your fundamental right to make a profit, your company does not have the right to improperly gouge current residents with unconscionable increases, and I will fully support any and all actions taken by the tenants of your building if the situation is not adequately addressed,” he wrote.
“As the corporate executive of a company with over $2.5 billion in annual revenue, I simply ask you to not lose sight of the very people who have paid rents that have contributed to these revenues, and not attempt to squeeze every last dollar you can out of them.”
Four days prior, a Hoboken couple that lives in a building owned by the Bozzuto Group wrote a letter to the editor claiming that tenants were facing up to 30 percent rental hikes, which Bhalla called “unconscionable” the following day.
Rent control in Hoboken has become a hot button issue since April, with Bhalla vetoing amendments approved by the city council at the end of that month, prompting the Mile Square Taxpayers Association to vow they would do a vacancy decontrol referendum.
As of this writing, the MTSA has not provided any update on presenting a ballot initiative by the end of 2023.