Doric Realty Co. v. Union City Rent Leveling Bd.

CourtSuperior Court of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtBILDER
Citation442 A.2d 652,182 N.J.Super. 486
PartiesDORIC REALTY CO., Plaintiff, v. UNION CITY RENT LEVELING BOARD, Union City Board of Commissioners, Jane Doe andJohn Doe, tenants of the Doric Apartments located at 100 Manhattan Avenue, Union City, New Jersey, and Doric Apartments Tenants Association, Defendants.
Decision Date04 December 1981

George B. Campen, Union City, for plaintiff (Farmer & Campen, Union City, attorneys).

Edward J. Lynch, Union City, for defendants Union City Rent Leveling Bd., and Union City Bd. of Com'rs.

Thomas L. Curcio, Union City, for defendant Doric Apartments Tenants Assn.


This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs to review the action of the Union City Rent Leveling Board (Board) in granting a 15% rent reduction based upon reduced services and maintenance. The landlord attacks the action procedurally as failing to follow the requirements of the ordinance and substantively as being unsupported in the record.

Section 12-10.5 of the Union City Rent Stabilization Ordinance reads as follows:

Rent Reduction Appeal; Decline in Care and Services. Whenever services, care or maintenance decline in any dwelling, any tenant may apply to the rent stabilization board for a decrease or reduction in rent. True copy of such notice shall be served upon the landlord and all other tenants in such building simultaneously setting forth in detail the reasons for such application. At least one month shall elapse prior to the date fixed for hearing thereon.

Plaintiff is the owner of a 400-unit high-rise residential apartment at 100 Manhattan Avenue, Union City, known as the Doric. On January 6, 1981 tenants of Doric applied to the Board for a rent reduction due to alleged decreases in services and maintenance. There is no evidence that copies of the notice were served upon the landlord and other tenants, although a hearing set for January 7, 1981 (the day following the filing of the notice with the Board) was adjourned until January 21, 1981 to give the landlord an opportunity to obtain an attorney. It appears that the landlord's attorney examined the complaints on January 20, 1981. Although no transcript is available, it appears that the adjourned hearing was held on January 21, 1981, at which time a member of the Union City Fire Department testified as to building inspections he made and violations he noted, as, for example, tenant property being stored in electrical rooms. Apparently a report of the Bureau of Housing Inspection showing a November 20, 1980 inspection and follow-up examinations was also introduced and made part of the record. Whether this report was that of the Fire Department representative is unclear since it is unsigned and deals primarily with maintenance problems, such as loose bricks, leaks, needed painting and the like. It is an apartment-by-apartment listing of every violation of the Housing Code that could be found-listed quantitatively but not qualitatively; that is to say, one cannot tell from the November 20, 1980 report the magnitude of any particular violation. In addition, testimony was apparently taken from tenants with respect to lack of security, reduction of reasonable maintenance, landscape deterioration, inferior television reception, lack of a master key, late opening of the pool, lack of repairs, debris in hallways and incinerators and generally poor and inadequate maintenance. Despite the landlord's objection to the lack of notice required by the ordinance, the Board proceeded to make findings of marked deterioration of services and maintenance throughout the building and ordered a 15% reduction of rent effective April 1, 1981, retroactive to February 1, 1981, unless the violations were abated by March 15, 1981, such abatement to be determined by inspectors from the appropriate city departments. On March 13, 1981, finding less than 30% of the violations had been abated, the Board granted the rent reduction.


While the actions of the Rent Leveling Board are presumed to be correct and will withstand judicial interference in the absence of a showing that they are arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, see In re Millburn Tp., 110 N.J.Super. 330, 335, 265 A.2d 550 (App.Div.1970), the determination must be capable of standing judicial review, Application of Howard Savings Institution of Newark, 32 N.J. 29, 52, 159 A.2d 113 (1960). Since the power of the Board derives from the ordinance, it is also axiomatic that the Board's actions must conform to the requirements of the mandate which is the source of its existence.

In the instant case, from a procedural point of view, the Board's action was defective in two fatal respects. In the first place, the Board failed to comply with those provisions of § 12-10.5 which are intended to insure that the landlord has proper notice and an opportunity to be heard-in other words, that the landlord receives due process. When the complaints were filed with the Board on January 6, 1981, notices should have been served upon the landlord and all of the tenants in the building setting forth in detail the reason for such application, and a date for hearing should have been fixed not sooner than one month later. The Board's failure to follow this procedure not only violated the provisions of the ordinance but unfairly impaired the ability of the landlord to meet the charges and obtain a fair hearing. In the second place, the Board failed to make a record such as would permit judicial review of its action. It is the contention of the landlord that the Board's action is unsupported by the evidence. It is impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether this claim does or does not have merit.


While, as already noted, the record is insufficient to permit proper review, it is apparent from references which appear in the minutes that the Board has equated violations of the town's Building Code with reductions in service such as would justify a reduction in rent. Such a conclusion finds no justification in the ordinance. Although a rent leveling ordinance may be used as a vehicle to maintain substantial compliance with municipal housing regulations, Orange Taxpayers Council, Inc. v. Orange, 83 N.J. 246, 257, 416 A.2d 353 (1980), it has not been so employed in § 12-10.5. Ordinances, like statutes, should be accorded their plain meaning, see Service Armament Co. v. Hyland, 70 N.J. 550, 556, 362 A.2d 13 (1976), and be interpreted so as to advance the legislative purpose. See Newark v. Essex Cty., 160 N.J.Super. 105, 113, 388...

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5 cases
  • OM 309-311 6th St., LLC v. The City of Union City, Civ. 21-12051 (KM) (JRA)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • March 23, 2022
    ...Bd., No. A-4079-17T1, 2019 WL 1503972, at *2 (N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Apr. 5, 2019); Doric Realty Co. v. Union City Rent Leveling Bd., 182 N.J.Super. 486, 493 (Law. Div. 1981).[8] Because the members of the Board exercise quasi-judicial power, all that is left is to determine if the conduct c......
  • Park Tower Apts. Inc. v. City of Bayonne
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • May 7, 1982
    ...the requirements of the ordinance nor act except in conformity with its mandates. See Doric Realty v. Union City Rent Leveling Bd., 182 N.J.Super. 486, 490, 442 A.2d 652 (Law Div.1981). It cannot be doubted that the board's actions were motivated by notions of fairness and equity. However, ......
  • Schulmann Realty Group v. Hazlet Tp. Rent Control Bd.
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • April 23, 1996
    ...589 (1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1090, 107 S.Ct. 1300, 94 L.Ed.2d 155 (1987); see Doric Realty Co. v. Union City Rent Leveling Bd., 182 N.J.Super. 486, 490, 442 A.2d 652 (Law Div.1981) ("Since the power of the Board derives from the ordinance, it is ... axiomatic that the Board's actions ......
  • Golden Gateway Center v. San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization & Arbitration Bd., A083297
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 2, 1999
    ...We hold that it does not. GGC, for its part, urges us to embrace the reasoning in Doric Realty Co. v. Union City Rent Bd. (1981) 182 N.J.Super. 486, 442 A.2d 652 (Doric ). Doric involved the court's review of a rent board's decision to grant tenants in Union City a reduction in rent because......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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