Parsippany residents who receive an eviction notice because of a change in status—such as the birth of a child—put them in violation of the township's occupancy ordinance have some protection under law.
Section 213, Chapter 42.1 of the township code covers issues related to housing and property maintenance. The law states:
The Township shall establish a Relocation Assistance Fund to be administered by the Director of Human Services. The Fund shall accept relocation assistance payments as required by this Ordinance, and distribute them to eligible displaced tenants.
It further says:
Any tenant who receives a notice of eviction ... that results from zoning or code enforcement activity for an illegal occupancy ... shall be considered a displaced person and shall be entitled to relocation assistance in an amount equal to six times the monthly rental paid by the displaced person.
This six months' rent, under the law, is to be paid by the property's owner-landlord, however, if it has not been paid by the time of the eviction, the township is required to pay the sum to the tenant and then go after the owner-landlord for reimbursement.
This news may be helpful to residents such as a Apartments couple with a disabled child who received an eviction notice last May after Housing Supervisor Rena Plaxe informed them that their bedroom was 15 feet too small to allow a third resident in their single-bedroom apartment.
Mayor James Barberio, hearing of the family's plight in a Township Council meeting, told them that . He attempted to amend the town's 2006 occupancy ordinance to allow waivers to young families who might be forced to move after having a child.
at the Aug. 14 council meeting when Councilman Michael dePierro moved for the ordinance amendment to be scrapped in reaction to town residents who opposed the idea. His council colleagues agreed and voted to scuttle the amendment—which left the Dartmouth Village family again vulnerable.
And they aren't alone: Democratic Town Council candidate Jonathan Nelson told Patch he has heard from other families at other Parsippany apartment complexes who face a similar plight.
Nelson said that while he has long been a strong advocate for laws that prohibit unlawful stacking in town residences, he is outraged by seeing young families facing eviction.
"I do not believe that a young couple living in a one-bedroom apartment with a newborn baby is stacking," he said. "That is what I call a young family starting out in life."
Nelson discovered the relocation assistance information in the law while looking for ways in which to help families facing eviction.
Additionally, he found that under the town's 2012 budget, only $2,000—far less than six months' rent for any resident in Parsippany—is allotted for relocation assistance.
"The draconian stacking ordinance as currently written now exposes the taxpayers in our town to potentially millions of dollars in relocation fees which, by law,must be paid out to these displaced couples," Nelson said. "The only crime I believe they are guilty of is that they had the misfortune of coming into the crosshairs of an overly zealous housing supervisor.
"I wish the current council and administration had read the very laws they swore to uphold," he continued.
"The mayor should do the right thing and immediately give Ms. Plaxe her walking papers."
Plaxe refused comment to Patch.
Human Services Director Barbara Ievoli said that the last time she recalled relocation assistance being given was "many years ago" in a case that involved a tenant forced to move because the building was uninhabitable by no fault of the person.
Ievoli said the relocation assistance provision applies only when someone is evicted because of an alleged stacking violation.
"If the person is allowed to finish out their lease, it wouldn't apply," she explained. "A non-renewal of the lease is not an eviction."
About a week after the Aug. 14 council meeting, the Dartmouth Village family received a letter from the complex's General Manager Howard Goldsmith informing them that they would be allowed to stay in their apartment until April 30—the end of their lease, which they will not be permitted to renew.
Patch awaits comments from Mayor Barberio and the members of the Township Council.