What about Trenton’s "Animal Houses"?

A Sen. Shirley Turner bill aimed at expanding the applicability of “Animal House” provisions to towns all over the state seems like it could be used as an interesting springboard to go after bad landlords and the crummy tenants they tend to attract in places like Trenton.

Sen. Turner’s legislation expands the existing “Animal House” statute to allow governing bodies in every New Jersey town to pass ordinances requiring landlords of problem houses to post bonds and other forms of financial security to compensate for further drains on municipal resources caused by their properties.

The bill passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today, and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

“Requiring bonds has been a proven method in shore communities for reducing disruptions coming from rentals. Now it will be an option in all communities, especially those that are home to our colleges and universities,” said Sen. Turner, in a statement.

Shore towns have been allowed to pass these types of local ordinances since the inception of the law in the early 1990s, but college towns like Sen. Turner’s own Ewing Township have pushed for their own similar laws since that time.

But why not expand it to homes that frequently attract gang or drug activity in places like Trenton, where these problem properties drive out home owners, ruin the quality of life, and only serve to further damage the city’s social fabric?

Surely there is some responsible way of fashioning legislation similar to the “Animal House” statute but aimed at the type of problems experienced in the inner cities of New Jersey.

It could provide a significant resource for cash-strapped cities that can use all the help they can get when dealing with service-draining crime and gang issues.


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