Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Safe Homes Initiative - For the Safety of ALL Plainfield Residents

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:

“ 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 ( Click on the Plainfield Municipal Code link on the left navigation bar to read the ordinance in its entirety.

Regards, Adrian


Anonymous said...

I just read the entire ordinance Mr. Mapp. Why would the city council repeal this ordinance? It seems like it would have been the best protection for tenants who really are, as we have found out, at the mercy of slumlords like Connolly. All you have to do is look at how shabby they are, at the unmowed lawns and the basic security of a front door lock missing. The other parts of the ordinance dealing with overcrowding are also very important. Why is the city council and the mayor waiting for 10 people to die in a fire? I bet the mayor would be there first saying "this is a tragedy,we will hire more inspectors" in this case. Can we impeach the mayor and the council and do-nothing Jerry Green (chair of housing and local government, really? come on, really?) who voted to repeal this safety measure? Sure wish you had won as mayor. Nice web site, thank you.

active citizen said...

I hope the mayor reads these comments. Repealing this law was an idiotic thing to do. There is no other way to look at it. It does not help the residents of Plainfield and I'm sad to see that this administration began dismantling the safety net for renters from its onset. Get with the program Madame Mayor and reinstate this law.