Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Court challenge filed against Mount Laurel ordinance that makes landlords liable for tenants' disorderly conduct.

On April 4, 2018, a Mount Laurel Township (Burlington County) property owner filed a lawsuit challenging an ordinance that holds residential landlords "responsible and liable for the conduct and actions of any tenant, invitee, guest or any other person who is in, or about the premises and/or property with the permission, either express or implied, of the landlord, owner, tenant, guest or invitee."  Property owners who violate the ordinance are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, up to 90 days community service "or any combination thereof."

The lawsuit, captioned Sheppard v. Mount Laurel Township, Docket No. BUR-L-707-18, was filed in Burlington County Superior Court by Marlton attorney Daniella Gordon on behalf of her client Scott Sheppard who owns rental property in the Township.  The suit takes aim at several aspect of the Township's Rental Ordinance enacted in July 2016.  In her filing, Gordon also argues that the ordinance is preempted by state statute and that it violates the constitution because it requires landlords and tenants to give "free access" to an "inspecting officer . . . at all reasonable times" without requiring the officer to get a search warrant.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment holding that the offending sections of the ordinance are preempted or unconstitutional "and ordering the Township to revise the Code accordingly."  The suit also seeks to make the Township pay Sheppard's costs of suit and Gordon's attorneys fees.