Union City on Wednesday partially resolved a lawsuit brought by the Union City Housing Initiative by proposing to repeal its Eviction Freeze Ordinance, which would require that landlords maintain tenancies for up to 12 months without collecting rent before it could seek eviction, and at that point burden the landlord with pursuing the tenant for back rent.
“This action validates the claims we made about the unconstitutionality of the ordinance—an ordinance that violated state law the moment it was adopted—especially in light of Mayor [Brian] Stack’s failed attempt to change state law to protect it,” says Charles Gormally of Brach Eichler LLC, attorney for the Union City Housing Initiative. “While Mayor Stack also earlier amended the rent freeze ordinance that also is part of our litigation, we are going to see our litigation to its conclusion.”
Gormally pointed to numerous substantive differences between the local ordinances and those that are making their way through the Legislature, including a local stipulation that would have required landlords to prove that tenants had the means to pay their rent but didn’t in order for them to be found liable for the charges.
“There is no way for a landlord to perform an investigation into a private citizen’s finances in order to determine their capacity to pay – and if we had tried it the courts rightly would have pointed out that it is an invasion of privacy.”
Gormally said the government can’t force private property owners to bear the expenses of housing people who can’t afford to pay – the government needs to underwrite those housing programs.