Due to frequent disruptive conduct and many complaints among residents, the South Orange Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance on July 27 that requires imposed sanctions on landlords who do not evict tenants repeatedly violating quality-of-life-laws.
These quality-of life violations consist of conviction for disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct, including simple assault, assault, terroristic threats, harassment, urinating or defecating in public, lewdness, criminal mischief and crimes against property or excessive noise.
The ordinance was adopted with the notion that only landlords can control the selection of their tenants and their cause of eviction. Those who fail to evict tenants convicted of more than one violation per year may be issued a filed complaint by the village which can result in a minimum fine of $500 or possible revocation of rental license.
This “Animal House” ordinance, as many residents and landlords in the village call it, specifically states that the cause for the ruling is “due to the presence of numerous university students in the community, a condition present in relatively few communities.”
Village president Douglas Newman said that the ordinance was not made to attack college students specifically.
“When doing a local law you have to have a statement of findings as to why you’re even going down the path of doing something,” Newman said. “It’s important because you have to establish what bothered even pursuing an ordinance in the first place if you don’t have a reason that’s different from perhaps a different town.”
Newman said the difference in South Orange is that it is home to a university which makes it unique from other towns.
However, because of the ordinance’s direction toward college students, many of those who live in off-campus housing are beginning to worry about what the upcoming school year may bring.
Senior Tyler Bachelor has been an off campus resident for almost two years in a house on Riggs Place and said he and his roommates are now worried about their own neighbors reporting them for noise violations.
“I don’t understand what people think they are getting themselves into when they move to South Orange,” Bachelor said. “There’s a major university here. Of course there’s going to be loud college students.”
South Orange resident Charles Weber lives on Riggs Place as well and said he has never had to call the cops on his neighbors in the past but has experienced their disorderly behavior.
“There has to be control when the students move in,” Weber said. “Sometimes we’ve had students move in who are fine. We’ve had other students who are rowdy throwing garbage around at three in the morning and they are yelling in the middle of the street.”
Weber added that he feels students should “learn their lesson” after a pair of warnings, else action may be warranted.
Meanwhile, other residents in the area said they have called the cops and reported neighbors for violations repeatedly.
South Orange resident and Seton Hall alumnus Barbera Alercio said she has been living in her house on Fairview Avenue all her life and has no sympathy for landlords or students in this ordinance.
“I am one of the residents who have been complaining for years about the Seton Hall students,” Alercio said. “My home has been vandalized. My neighbor’s homes have been vandalized and for years we have been fighting with the town and Seton Hall to please help us with this problem.”
Alercio said years ago she never had any problems with university students, however, over the past years the issues have escalated to the point where she has stopped donating money to Seton Hall.
“My neighbors and my yard have been vandalized to the point where people have had to pay hundreds of dollars to replace property,” Alercio said.
Alercio hopes some action is taken this year.
“We have been awakened night after night usually Thursday through Sunday morning with rowdiness, loud talking, profanity,” Alercio said. “I’m talking to the point of racing up and down the street in droves (and) throwing of beer bottles and cans from car windows.”
Senior Nerim Capri, another off- campus resident said, unlike other students, he understands the direction of the ordinance.
“This will make me be more cautious of how loud I play my music and how long I have my parties last,” Capri said. “I can see that they are making this rule for the people that abuse their privileges.”
Newman said he has spoken with University President Msgr. Robert Sheeran on the issue and added that, from his understanding, the university agrees with the ordinance.
“There is not a single change in what the laws are in respect to what is illegal behavior,” Newman said. “There’s no goal here to see anyone be evicted. The goal is the complete opposite. It’s to ensure that everyone lives in a way that’s respectful to their neighbors.”
Carolyn Maso can be reached at email@example.com.