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Legal Q & A

 

Relocation Assistance,
Marriage Officials and
the City Form of Government

Deborah M. Kole
League Staff Attorney


books
Deborah M. Kole, League Staff Attorney

Q I am a new member of the governing body in our municipality. A landlord in the community was recently cited by municipal code enforcement officials for an illegal occupancy that required the eviction of one of his tenants. I know that the tenant is entitled to financial assistance to help her find a new place to live, but I always thought that this was strictly the landlord’s responsibility. After all, it is his fault that she is being evicted because he did not comply with legal requirements. However, one of my colleagues tells me that the municipality has some responsibility in this matter too, because of an ordinance on our books. Who is responsible for providing these funds?

A Ulimately, the landlord is responsible for providing the funds, but if the municipality has a relocation assistance ordinance, the municipal government may be involved in the process as well. If a residential tenant is evicted under NJSA 2A:18-61.1g. (3), due to an illegal occupancy, and no such ordinance exists, NJSA 2A:18-61.1h provides that the landlord must pay the tenant an amount equal to six months rent as relocation assistance. Payment of this amount is due five days before eviction. If it is not paid by then, interest begins to accrue on the money due at a rate of 18 percent per year. If it is not paid within thirty days, the amount due becomes a lien on the property for the benefit of the tenant.

A municipality may enact an ordinance, under NJSA 2A:18-61.1g., under which it may pay the relocation assistance amount equal to six months rent to the tenant if the landlord has not provided the funds to the tenant at the time of the eviction. Note that such an ordinance is permissive and does not require the municipality to do so. Any such payment will be made out of a revolving relocation assistance fund established under NJSA 20:4-4.1a. Such monies paid by the municipality will then be billed to and collected from the owner/landlord and deposited in the revolving municipal relocation assistance fund.

Therefore, if your municipality has such an ordinance, it may act to protect the tenant if the landlord does not pay the relocation assistance funds promptly and then seek reimbursement from the landlord/owner. Furthermore, the statute allows the municipality to charge the owner-landlord a fine up to the amount of the relocation assistance, or six times the tenant’s rent.

 

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Q Can a retired mayor officiate at a marriage ceremony in New Jersey? Who else, other than clergy, can perform a marriage in this state?

A A mayor only has the power to perform marriages under NJSA 37:1-13 while he is in office. Once he is no longer a mayor, he can no longer perform this function. The other non-clergy officials who may perform marriages in New Jersey are judges of the federal district and circuit courts, federal magistrates, superior court judges and tax court judges, municipal court judges, county surrogates, county clerks, deputy mayors when authorized to do so by the mayor, chairmen of township committees, and village presidents. Unlike mayors, tax court and superior court judges still have the power to solemnize marriages under the statute after they have retired or “resigned in good standing.”

Q I  am confused about the meaning and operation of the city form of government in New Jersey. I thought that the “City Act of 1987” applied to all the municipalities still operating as cities in New Jersey. That Act provides for seven council members, six elected from two wards for staggered three year terms and one at large for four years. However, I see that some New Jersey communities governed by this form of government seem to have a different number of council members and/or method of election. Can you explain this?

A Although most of the provisions of the City Act of 1987 do apply to all of the municipalities operating as cities in New Jersey, those that were operating under special charters from the Legislature granted prior to 1875 that established a different method of council election, different council size or number of wards or a different term of office maintain those aspects of their charter unless their voters choose to accept the conflicting provisions of the Act by referendum. The rest of the City Act of 1987 applies to the special charter communities just as it does to other communities governed under the city form of government.

 

This column is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as legal advice.

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