Lakewood must stand its ground in enforcing township codes that regulate overcrowding and require landlords to obtain certificates of occupancy. Protests at the mayor’s house after a property owner was fined this week for code violations show how irrational critics of the township’s quality-of-life ordinances have become.
Mayor Meir Lichtenstein had every right to be upset after about 40 men crowded outside his house twice Tuesday, forcing him to relocate his family overnight. The action against a landlord earlier that day was a municipal court matter beyond the mayor’s control.
Questions about code enforcement belong at Township Committee meetings, not at the mayor’s private residence. The Lakewood Landlords Association has already taken the township to Superior Court, challenging the quality-of-life ordinances as unconstitutionally vague.
The landlords don’t seem to understand the responsibilities of property owners. They say they’re being held responsible for the wrongdoing of their tenants, who violate leases and don’t follow codes. The landlords have it all wrong. They, as landlords, are the responsible parties. They must see to it that tenants understand and follow regulations regarding the number of people residing in a house — and boot them out if they don’t.
“The town is not going to allow people to have overcrowded, unsafe housing,” Lichtenstein said in defending the quality-of-life program. There is good reason for code enforcement officials to address overcrowding issues. It just may prevent a tragedy at one of those properties. That’s why township officials must continue their campaign against code violators.