In light of the recent scandal that has come to light regarding Connolly Properties, I wanted to remind everyone of an ordinance which might have prevented some of the suffering that has been documented in the recent Courier-News coverage.
When I served as City Council President during my last year on the Plainfield City Council back in 2004, one of the last ordinances that came before us in my final term was Mayor Al McWilliams’s Safe Homes Initiative, formally known as MC 2004-32, REGISTRATION AND INSPECTION OF RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTIES, Chapter 6, Article 7 of the City’s Building Code (Rev. 7/05).
The purpose of the initiative was clearly stated:
“...to ensure that residential rental units as that term is defined in this Article are identified, properly registered with the pertinent unit and building information, inspected, maintained and repaired, with legal occupancy and without overcrowding, in accordance with applicable State and local building, property and health codes, and in conformance with New Jersey statutes and law so as to protect the property as well as the health, safety and welfare of City residents. To this end, the Article shall be liberally construed to assure the provision of decent and safe units of dwelling spaces.”
The section on “Inspections,” Sec. 6:7-8, deals with the steps the City was required to take to ensure habitability and safety. These steps included ANNUAL inspection of all rental units, IN ADDITION to any other inspections required under State law or City ordinances.
The ordinance also called for severe penalties for violation of the law. Sec. 6:7-17 of the ordinance outlines the penalties for violations:
a) Any person who violates the registration requirements of this Article shall be subject to a fine of nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) for each offense, recoverable by summary proceeding as set forth in N.J.S.A. 46:8-35.
b) Any person who violates any other provision of this Article shall, upon conviction in the Municipal Court of the City of Plainfield or such other court having a jurisdiction, be liable to a fine not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ninety (90) days, or by a period of community service not exceeding ninety (90) days or a combination thereof each day that a violation occurs shall be deemed a separate and distinct violation subject to the penalty provisions of this Article.
c) Any person who is convicted of violating this Article within one (1) year of the date of a previous violation of the same Article and who was fined for the previous violations, shall be sentenced by a Court to an additional fine as a repeat offender. The additional fine imposed by the Court upon a person for a repeated offense shall not be less than the maximum or exceed the maximum fine fixed for a violation of the Article, but shall be calculated separately from the fine imposed for the violation of the Article.
This ordinance was repealed by the 2006 city council at the request of the Robinson-Briggs administration.
It remains my belief that this comprehensive ordinance should be reinstated. Other municipalities have very strong municipal codes to protect their residents, and there is no reason why Plainfield should be any different.
It is the moral and ethical responsibility of all of Plainfield’s elected officials to protect our residents, homeowners AND renters by making sure that we have laws on the books that will provide for their safety and security while they reside in Plainfield.
The Safe Homes Initiative is posted on my website (http://www.councilmanmapp.com/). Click on the Plainfield Municipal Code link on the left navigation bar to read the ordinance in its entirety.