BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — The borough is looking to establish a fair rent commission after the state legislature has mandated that certain municipalities need to do so this year.
The state General Assembly, during the 2022 legislative session, enacted a law that requires municipalities with populations of at least 25,000 to adopt an ordinance to create a fair rent commission by July 1.
The borough has a population of about 31,500, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Borough attorney Ned Fitzpatrick drafted a proposed fair rent commission ordinance that will make its way to the next regular Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting on April 4, which will take place right after a hearing at 7 p.m. Borough officials could adopt the proposed ordinance at that time.
“The fair rent commission will decide whether or not the rents landlords are charging meet the market or they’re being excessive,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what any tenant can file a complaint and have a hearing, if you want and that’s what the purpose of the board will be.”
The powers of the commission include receiving complaints, inquiries, and other communications concerning alleged excessive rental charges and alleged violations, make studies and investigations regarding rental housing and conduct hearings on complaints according to the proposed ordinance.
Borough officials can decide the number of fair rent commission members, which can be anywhere from three members to seven members.
Fitzpatrick said he has been told byTown Planner Lori Rotella that there aready is difficulty to fill vacancies on the borough’s land use boards.
A quorum on a seven-man commission would be four members; a five-man commission needs three members for a quorum. A three-member panel might be sufficient — with at least one member being a landlord and another being a tenant. The panels can’t be made up of two thirds of one political party, Fitzpatrick said.
Some burgesses had differing ideal numbers of fair rent commission members as Deputy Mayor Robert A. Neth said three members would be sufficient while Burgess Jan Miseski said five members would be adequate.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said people who are interested to serve on this commission should make it known so they can be considered. This commission would a lot of power, he added.
“A lot of commissions don’t have much power. This commission has a lot of power and we need people who won’t abuse it but will follow the rules and do things fairly,” Hess said. “People who are familiar with real estate values and rents, who have that knowledge would be good.”
Fitzpatrick said he would check to see if a burgess would be able to serve on the fair rent commission.
Burgess Rocky Vitale said some of the criteria to determine if there is excessive rent is subjective and while Hess and Fitzpatrick agreed, Hess said that is why it’s important to that borough officials get smart people with knowledge to be on the commission.
“I would say our biggest task here is to find some good people to be on the commission. If we have good people, we’ll have no problems,” Hess said.
Fitzpatrick said keeping the members interested and active in the commission also will be important.
Before the hearing is held, burgesses can analyze the proposed ordinance, think about members and if borough officials don’t adopt it at the next meeting, the proposed ordinance can be modified and researched further for any changes, Hess said.