AvalonBay sues Hoboken over rent control decision

AvalonBay is taking Hoboken to task after being stripped of its rent control exemption last year.

The firm is suing the New Jersey city and its rent leveling board following the loss of the exemption and subsequent loss of an appeal in the fall, Hudson County View reported. AvalonBay is seeking to nullify the board’s decision over the complex at 800 Madison Street.

The saga dates back to the summer, when a lawyer filed a lawsuit on behalf of several tenants at the 217-unit property, arguing a rent increase of up to 28.2 percent was “unconscionable,” and therefore, in violation of New Jersey’s largely undefined guidelines prohibiting “unreasonable” rent hikes, widely accepted to be limited around 25 percent.

Despite the city not being party to the lawsuit, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla publicly expressed support for the plaintiffs.

The developer argued it had an exemption that would’ve saved the apartment complex from being subject to rent control. In a unanimous decision, however, the rent leveling board rejected AvalonBay’s appeal to eliminate rent control, claiming the required letter of exemption wasn’t filed on time.

In AvalonBay’s most recent legal salvo, its attorneys claim the building has held exempt status since the early 2000s and has always been treated that way by Hoboken. The lawsuit said the mayor “commissioned a covert investigation” after which the building was “unilaterally” subjected to the city’s rent control policy, which is even more strict than that maintained by the state.

AvalonBay’s suit points to a 2011 agreement between the city and the one-time developer of the property, which noted it consisted of “market rate” units. The plaintiffs’ attorneys also argued rent control would diminish the property’s value and took issue with a tenant advocate’s permission to speak during the rent leveling board hearing.

Finally, AvalonBay’s legal team argued the rent control decision was political.

“The Mayor’s and the [rent leveling board] Chair’s position were motivated not by the facts or by the law, but by their respective political aspirations,” the plaintiffs claimed.

A spokesperson for the city declined to comment on pending litigation.

Holden Walter-Warner

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