Belmar eyes sharper teeth for ‘animal house’ rental law

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BELMAR — The borough council is mulling a change to Belmar’s “animal house” ordinance that could result in the loss of rental licenses by property owners whose tenants receive multiple summonses.

The proposed change was introduced at Tuesday night’s council meeting and follows a summer of complaints by residents about large, loud house parties primarily in the southern section of town along the beachfront, leaving properties strewn with litter.

“It’s been a tough summer, extremely difficult for a lot of residents with some of the rentals,” said Councilwoman Pat Wann, the council’s to the police department. “I have spoken to many residents this summer who were very upset and affected by this, myself included.”

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The proposed change, which had its first reading on Tuesday night, “is just the beginning of what we are going to do to get on this problem,” the councilwoman said. “This has been a big problem for a long time.”

Under a current borough ordinance regarding rental properties, Section 26-11 of the borough code, rental properties with two complaints are required “to post a bond or equivalent security to compensate for any future damage or expense suffered from future repetition of disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct.” Bonds can cost a landlord between $500 and $5,000.

If a substantiated complaint is recorded against a landlord after bond is posted, the borough may start proceedings “for the forfeiture or partial forfeiture of the security.”

Ordinance 2020-36 changes portions of the borough code regulating rental properties, allowing the borough to revoke a property owner’s summer rental license if “any tenant or occupant of any individual living unit upon the licensed premises is charged with a violation of a Borough Ordinance.” In the event two complaints are issued during one licensing year and result in convictions in municipal court, according to the proposed ordinance, then such convictions may be grounds for suspension or revocation of the license.

However, if the owner of the licensed property is the complaining party and the complaint produces a conviction in municipal court, that conviction would not be used to suspend their license.

According to Council President Thomas Brennan, the change is needed to make sure that the borough’s rules are being followed.

“If they feel that we are going to get their license yanked and they won’t be able to make the income they are counting on, maybe they will be responsible for the conduct of their tenants or maybe they will see the wisdom of switching to weekly rentals and not deal with that summer crowd,” he said.

On their website, the borough provides a list of which properties received noise and disorderly conduct summonses over the course of the summer. The last update to the list was Sept. 11. According to the list, about 50 properties were cited more than 120 times. The properties with the most summones on the list were 216 18TH Ave., 107 18TH Ave., 408 16TH Ave., which received seven violations each.

“We will continue to meet throughout the winter so that when the summer comes, and our guests appear again, we will be ready for them and just show them that Belmar welcomes visitors, but don’t destroy the town,” Councilwoman Wann said.

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