Today, Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack announced a historic rent protection settlement that restores tenant rights for 20 families displaced by a fire nearly 10 years ago.
The settlement agreement, following almost a decade of legal and regulatory action at the local, state and federal levels, paves the way for tenants to return to their refurbished former apartments on or before September of this year, or receive a financial settlement if they have chosen not to return to their former homes.
Nine of the tenants have chosen to return and under the agreement their rents will be set at the rate they were paying when the fire took place at 409-415 Bergenline Avenue on December 2, 2012. Additionally, they are also entitled to a $10,000 credit against future rent, and all future rent increases will be subject to the city’s rent control ordinance.
The following statements were obtained from some of the residents who will be returning to their former apartments:
- “I feel extremely grateful to the Mayor, and I’m proud of what all of what he’s been doing all of these years. He never forgot about us.” – Paulina Jaramillo, Apartment 4B
- “It’s an incredible feeling and relief to be able to return to my home. For ten years the Mayor supported us and I am very thankful to him and his Administration.” – Georgina Ceverino, Apartment 3C
- “Being here brings back many memories and I am excited to take this next step forward. The Mayor has been marvelous to work with. He always treated us well and kept us informed anytime there was an update.” – Carmen Garcia, Apartment 3EThe tenants who have chosen not to return will each receive a $5,000 payment.“Union City has one of the strongest tenant protection laws in the state and I am gratified that, after so many years of legal disputes, we are able to help these residents return to their homes at their prior rents,” says Mayor Stack. “This settlement also sends a message that Union City is committed to protecting tenant rights no matter how long it may take.”The building’s owner at the time of the fire claimed the building was beyond repair and that it was not obligated to re-lease the apartments to their former tenants. The city’s Rent Control Board denied the claim and the City began legal action against the landlord in State Superior Court in 2018 which was later followed by the landlord’s legal action against the City in Federal Court. This settlement resolves all litigation.