Animal House’ ordinance deemed effective

After 2 years in effect, the Rental Registration & Licensing ordinance, more commonly known at Seton Hall as the

“Animal House” ordinance, has significantly reduced noise complaints in the Village of South Orange, according to Doug Newman, Village president.

The ordinance was adopted in 2009 by the South Orange Board of Trustees after frequent disruptive conduct and complaints amongst residents.

According to the ordinance, landlords will receive a minimum fine of $500 if they permit tenants who commit two or more quality of life or property damage crimes within a 12 month period to remain in occupancy.

Quality of life violations include “disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct, including, by way of example, but not limited to, simple assault, assault, terroristic threats, harassment, urinating or defecating in public, lewdness, criminal mischief, crimes against property or excessive noise,” as stated in the ordinance.

According to Newman, the ordinance has been effective based on the decrease in residents who live near rentals bringing concerns to the Board’s attention.

“Perhaps there have been tenants convicted of two quality of life violations facing the resulting consequences, who complained to someone, despite the own obvious role in their own predicament,” Newman said.

According to Dr. Laura Wankel, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, complaints have significantly decreased.

“During the 2009-2010 academic year we received about 45 complaints from SOPD,” Wankel said. “This continued the downward trend that we saw beginning in 2007-08.”

Newman said it is his sense that things have quieted down, but he had no empirical basis for gauging that.

Although the ordinance has reduced complaints, junior Shane Overgaard, a student who lives in off-campus South Orange housing, feels the ordinance is still unfair.

“I feel as if the ordinance unfairly targets college students,” Overgaard said.

The Setonian attempted to reach other students who reside off-campus, but none returned requests for comment.

The ordinance states that the condition was in major part due to the presence of numerous University students in the community.

However, Newman said the ordinance was not made to attack college students specifically in an August 15, 2009, Setonian article.

Despite Overgaard’s concerns, Newman said he has not received complaints or comments from students besides “The Setonian’s recurring obsession with covering this non-story every year.”

“When there historically have been problems, they invariably were caused by an incredibly small segment of student residents who behaved with total disregard for their neighbors, regardless of whether they were other students or families,” Newman said.

While the ordinance deals generally with the residents of South Orange, Newman said the ordinance should be viewed in a larger context.

“The Rental Registration & Licensing ordinance should be viewed in the larger context of the University’s expanded efforts to increase students’ awareness of their responsibilities when living off-campus,” Newman said.

Wankel said the University expects its students to be good neighbors and expects landlords and residents to treat students fairly and with respect.

“To that end the Office of Community Development has developed an online tutorial “Beyond the Gates: Your Guide to Living Off Campus,”” Wankel said.

According to Wankel the program is intended to inform students about their rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

Wankel also said she does not believe the ordinance has had a negative impact on landlords’ willingness to rent to students.

“It has increased the accountability that landlords have which has been helpful to the community,” Wankel said. “It is more difficult for landlords to be “absent” from attending to their obligations to neighboring properties and general code compliance.”

Ashley Duvall can be reached at ashley.duvall@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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