Jackson Township Suffering from Sharp Increase in Questionable LLC Operated Rental Properties

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JACKSON-There is an increase in the volume of homes being bought by corporations in Jackson for the purpose of being used as rental investment properties, according to research provided by Jackson Township resident Rae Ann Walker.

Walker’s report prompted Council President Robert Nixon into admitted at this week’s township council meeting that the existing landlord registration process is in place is not working.

“We’ve noticed an increase in the last several years in the  number of people purchasing homes and renting them out,” Nixon said. “When we looked at our landlord registration process, we found that what we have is inadequate to meet the needs of not only our town, but our code enforcement and quality of life.”

Nixon proposed to amend the township’s landlord registration process.

tenantsCurrently, landlords seeking to operate rental properties in Jackson are required to register just once.  Many times, out-of-town landlords do so through hard to trace post office boxes using Limited Liability Corporations to shield the individual landlord from problems that may arise at the property.

Nixon’s suggestion was in response to issues by Walker who uncovered nearly one hundred rental properties owned by LLC’s operating in the eastern section of Jackson Township in a story published last month by the Asbury Park Press.

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Walker found after investigating public records 161 rental properties were added to the township’s rental registry in 2015.  She said in 2015, that number was just 95.

Walker added that a concentration of those rentals exist around Cross Street and were purchased by LLC’s formed by township attorney Adam D. Pfeffer of the law firm of Levin, Shea & Pfeffer.   The same firm representing  Oros Bais Yaakov’s attempt to build a religious school on Cross Street.

Nixon asked the township legal counsel if it can require landlords to register annually, pay a fee to the township, register tenants and require physical addresses of the owners.

Township attorney Jean Cipriani said there are some things they can do and she would provide the township with a draft based on how the process works in neighboring municipalities. Clerk Ann Marie Eden said she would also provide the council with state laws to help them draft the new ordinance.

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Jackson residents also alerted the township to illegal construction work on some of these properties.   Nixon said that in once instance code enforcement confirmed the illegal construction and issued violations.   Residents are encouraged to call code enforcement if they suspect rental properties are being illegally converted to multi-tenant dwellings or are performing the work without permits.    Residents should not expect an immediate response to those calls due to staffing issues and workload problems the township said.

Jackson resident Elanor Hannum asked the township council how a concerned resident reports a violation to code enforcement, what is the internal process of handling those calls.

The township’s response was less than reassuring.

“There’s no set, you know depending on, there’s a lot of things it depends on,” said township Business Administrator Helene Schlegel. “It depends on, and I don’t want to give a vague answer, but I wish I could give you something more specific, but the truth of the matter is depending on the number of cases that people that people are out in the field, it depends staffing levels, it depends on a lot of those types of things.”

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beepersplusMany of these home purchases by LLC’s in Jackson are merely investment properties according to records on file with the Ocean County Clerk.

“In some of the research and detective work I’ve been doing, some of the disturbing fact is that we have numerous LLC’s misrepresenting themselves that they have buyers with nice loving families with four children looking to buy your home when in fact they are LLC’s,” Hannum said.  “They all come back to the same storefront in a neighboring town, downtown [Lakewood] address, Beepers Plus. Over 30 LLC’s all come back to the same address where there’s mailboxes. I find this very disturbing.”

In this week’s issue of BP Weekly, a weekly coupon circular in Lakewood, an ad offering Spanish speaking tenants available for investment properties.  The ad read, “Specializing in non-frum [non-Jewish Orthodox] areas.  We also offer full property management services.  Pls. Call Excel Management at 732-597-1737.”

Several calls to that number seeking clarification went unanswered.