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Newark apartment tenants continue 30-year battle with management

Posted by Barry Carter on Thursday, February 20, 2014 Under: #EssexCounty
Barry Carter/Star-Ledger
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newark-pavilion-colonnadeScreen is president of the tenant organization at the Pavilion, a high-rise apartment building in downtown Newark. Residents are upset with management over a new lease 

NEWARK — The Pavilion and Colonnade apartments are made up of three towering Newark high-rises known for their stately glass windows with New York City views. The buildings are still striking on the outside even though their glory days are clearly gone.

They are close to most things a tenant could want in downtown Newark. You can walk to church or to the park. The train station is a hop, skip and a jump away, and the bus stops out front. The convenience is grand.

Residents say it’s not so grand living here when the heat doesn’t work, when the elevators break down, when management doesn’t appear to be fond of tenant organizations speaking up for themselves.

And some residents say it seems like its always been this way.

You know, mama said there would be days like this, but she didn’t say they’d last 30 years.

Over the years, one management company after another has tried to run Pavilion and Colonnade apartments. The latest, Kettler Management of McLean, Va., is the third in eight years and it didn’t get off to a good start in July by imposing a new, 12-month lease that has terms residents think are unreasonable.

We’ll get to those shortly.

Kettler was pushing a term-lease at first, but it also said residents could pay month-to-month for a $250 monthly charge. The idea didn’t go over well when Kyle Screen, president of the Pavilion Tenant Association, and Colonnade residents complained to Newark’s rent control officer, who intervened for them. Management soon backed off, but that doesn’t solve the problem with the lease itself, which requires $100,000 liability insurance from residents. The penalty for late rent is 10 percent of the total rent, which is about $100 or twice the $50 they were paying. In cases of bedbugs, residents may have to pay for exterminators, and for any lawsuit regarding the lease, tenants have must waive all rights to a jury trial and allow the case to be decided by a judge.

Kettler President Cindy Clare said the lease is a standard form used by the National Apartment Association. She said it’s fair and practical and doesn’t violate New Jersey law.

"We want our policies to be consistent," Clare said. "Month-to-month leases leave us with empty apartments.’’

Mitch Kahn, vice president and director of organizing for the New Jersey Tenants Organization, said it’s the same old story between residents and the many management companies that have tried to run these old buildings over the years.

"They are beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, they are really showing their age,’’ Kahn said. "In buildings of those sizes, it’s costly, therefore they are trying to skimp and save as much money on replacement maintenance."

With this lease issue, Kahn said residents have the right under New Jersey law to not sign a lease they feel is not reasonable.

“Not only are they inefficient, but they operate with total ignorance of New Jersey law.’’

"They (Kettler) are the most inefficient managers’’ he said. "Not only are they inefficient, but they operate with total ignorance of New Jersey law.’’

And that’s the problem for Screen: Management, he said, wants tenants to sign the new lease rules before they sign the actual lease.

"They never said: Let’s negotiate,’’ he said. "They said sign it or get out."

Looks like Kettler has a fight on its hands, because many residents like Johnny Williams are not on board.

"A lot of people are skeptical," he said.

Kettler, however, maintains the lease is reasonable and that residents can review it before signing. Coco Lyons, a spokesperson, said Kettler met with tenants over the summer and more than 300 out of 1,480 have agreed to the terms.

The volley goes back and forth, but residents are not convinced. Screen says he was targeted as tenant president, because he received his eviction notice in December, and everybody else in his building was given a letter in January that said they must sign the new lease or face eviction.

"They’re upset with me, because I’m the voice of the people," Screen said. "This is retaliation." There have been other, strange goings on. Screen’s eviction notice in December was signed by a Kettler employee who died in August. Since the notice was signed by a dead person, Kettler had to withdraw the Screen’s notice a day before his court hearing last month. Other residents also received eviction notices signed by the deceased employee, and they were dismissed as well.

Clare said those eviction notices were inadvertently mailed, but new ones are on their way if residents don’t sign on.

"We’re not singling anybody out," Clare said. "We’re trying to get everybody on the same lease form so that all of the rules and regulations are consistent for everybody.’’

Meanwhile, heat continues to be a problem. The old pipes burst last month in several apartments at the Colonnade.

"I feel residents are being taken for granted," said Carlton Tilley, president of the Colonnade Residence Coalition.

Clare said the heating system will be overhauled. Until then, a system is being devised so that a heating problem in one area doesn’t affect the whole building.

So on it goes at Pavilion and Colonnade apartments. This is life in the big city, three decades and counting and it’s not a pretty picture.

In : #EssexCounty 


Tags: newark apartment tenants continue 30-year battle with management 
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