New push to clean up deplorable conditions at New Jersey housing

ASBURY PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- There is a new push for renters rights in New Jersey, with advocates fighting to change the law in order to give renters more protection.

Two state lawmakers are calling out landlords who allegedly force residents to live in deplorable conditions to get money from the state and federal government.

One single-room occupancy location in Asbury Park has 50 residents, and city officials say it has had numerous violations for insects, mice and roach infestations. The rooms are tightly packed, and the building shows a lot of wear and tear.

On Tuesday, senators Jennifer Beck and Ron Rice inspected the building and others, demanding landlords address the problems or run the risk of losing the housing subsidies from the state used to help tenants pay rent.

Officials say landlords have been able to evade responsibility by setting up limited-liability corporations and using PO boxes as addresses, which then makes it difficult to find landlords when there is a problem.

One post office box in particular was reportedly used by more than 300 LLCs owning property in the area.

Residents have said there are problems with bed bugs in the rooms. The senators are introducing legislation to cut out negligent landlords, cutting them off from state funds until properties are made safe and sanitary for people to inhabit.

"We know that there are children and families living in substandard conditions, and we have to act," Beck said. "Taxpayers are funding this housing. We have to make sure it's clean and sanitary and not infested with rats and cockroaches, and I think that's simple and straightforward."

The landlord for the building in question was on site, and he said he tries to address all problems any time a concern comes up. He said they always try to deal with any pest inside the building, and he said the folks who rent there have to be more responsible for the upkeep of the rooms in which they live.
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