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  • Proposed Legislation to prevent Evictions
  • Covid Relief Package and Final Fiscal Year 2021 Spending Bill
  • List of Non-Legal & Legal Resources Related to COVID-19
  • COVID-19: RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS: WHAT TENANTS NEED TO KNOW
  • COVID-19:  RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS: WHAT HOMEOWNERS NEED TO KNOW

Tenants and the COVID pandemic:  Legislation needed to prevent eviction while helping tenants pay their current rent going forward and helping landlords get some of the back rent they lost

Last March the Governor shut down the economy and stopped courts and landlords from evicting tenants.  But that moratorium will end sometime in 2021.  Around 400,000 tenant households will be behind in their rent due to the job losses and other expenses cause by the virus and the economic shut down.  The Legislature must pass laws preventing eviction when the moratorium ends by (1) changing the way Courts deal with evictions; (2) helping landlords get a good part of the unpaid back rent they lost; and (3) helping tenants pay their regular rent after the moratorium ends, until the jobs return and they are back on their feet.

  1. Bills that change the way the Courts deal with evictions:
  2. A5242  This bill stops evictions for unpaid back rent that builds up before the moratorium ends.  Tenants will still owe the rent, but they can’t be evicted for it.  Landlords can still sue and get a money judgment and collect it like other creditors.
  3. S2340/A4034.  This bill allows tenants to be taken to court for eviction when the moratorium ends, but it requires landlords to set up repayment agreements.  Tenants will have 6 months to pay back each month’s rent they missed, with all back rent due within 30 months.  But this bill has been weakened by amendments, and needs to made stronger so that it protects more people than it does now. This is the “People’s Bill”. 
  4. S538/A3108.  This bill fixes many problems with the eviction process.  For instance, it ends the requirement that Tenants “post” all unpaid rent (such as rent they have been holding because of bad conditions) before the Court will hear their case.
  5. S539/A3109    .  Tenants know that future Landlords may refuse to rent to them if they were ever taking to Court, even if they won or the filing was a mistake.  This bill stops that by “sealing the records” for all cases that do not lead to actual eviction, meaning that future Landlords and credit agencies won’t be able to learn about the filing.
  6. (No number yet).  This bill changes the way courts deal with tenant and landlord problems. It sets up a program that helps Tenants as soon as they start to get behind in their rent.  It makes sure that landlords get their money, and that Tenants are not even taken to court for eviction.
  • Bills that give Landlords some of the back rent they lost during the moratorium, in order to stop them from evicting their tenants
  • A4617.  Provides landlords with a large part of the back rent they lost, which means the tenants will owe less.  But the eviction protections in the bill needs to be made stronger, to make sure that landlord don’t get their unpaid rent but still evict the tenants anyway.  (S3022 is a similar bill that we support).
  • Bills that help Tenants pay rent going forward when the moratorium ends
  • S3245/A5143.  Provides rental assistance on a sliding scale to Tenants so they can pay their regular rent going forward after the moratorium.  Tenants with the lowest incomes will get the most help, while Tenants making more money will still get some help if they need it.This bill expands Homeless Prevention to create a temporary rental assistance program to pay rent going forward for 2-3 years when the economy should be recovered.         

This website is good for checking on the status of bills and for who is sponsoring the bill.  https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillsByNumber.asp

New Jersey will receive about $591 in rental assistance in the law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the president in December 2020.  (See below for details.)  Advocates must start working immediately with state and local policymakers to ensure that rental assistance funds are fairly and equitably distributed to the tenants most at risk of housing instability and homelessness. The above state bills are needed to be enacted by the N.J. Legislature and administrative agencies to effectively use these federal funds. Rental Assistance programs should include further targeting and prioritization guidelines, along with strong tenant protections, such as eviction protections, rent forgiveness, and other measures to ensure that tenants remain housed until the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.

President Joe Biden will be submitting an additional COVID-19 stimulus bill to Congress which will contain provision for more tenant and homeowner financial assistance.

Covid Relief Package and Final Fiscal Year 2021 Spending Bill

On December 21, 2020, Congress reached an agreement on a Covid relief package. Congress also released a final FY21 spending bill that included funding for HUD and affordable housing programs. Below is a summary and analysis of the key components of both bills with respect to affordable housing and tenants’ rights.  President Trump signed the bill. There are several important housing provisions in the emergency Covid relief package.

The relief package includes $25 billion for emergency rental assistance, funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and administered through the Department of Treasury. New Jersey will receive about $591 million of this in this assistance. The assistance will cover a small fraction of the vast need for rental assistance throughout the country. However, Congress made some improvements to CRF since the CARES Act, including adding a requirement that 90% of the funds be used towards rental assistance, which may include current rent, prospective rent, and rental arrears, as well as utility payments, utility arrears, and other potential housing costs incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, CRF funds must now be distributed to renter households with incomes at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, with a priority for households at or below 50% AMI, or households that include at least one person who has been unemployed for 90 days at the time they apply for rental assistance. Up to 10% of funds may also be used for housing stability services, which the Act defines as “case management and other services related to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as defined by the Secretary of HUD, intended to help keep households stably housed.” Legal aid may qualify as “housing stability services” but ultimately the Treasury will interpret what activities are authorized with the funds.


LIST OF NON-LEGAL & LEGAL RESOURCES RELATED TO COVID-19

Website at Legal Services of New Jersey on a variety of legal and non-legal assistance resources:  https://www.lsnjlaw.org/Health-Care/Coronavirus/Pages/default.aspx . [Including:  housing – evictions and foreclosures; consumer, credit and debt issues; family and relationships; jobs and employment; health; discrimination; schools and learning; military and veterans; taxes; Social Security Disability/SSI; Social Security; government aid and services; utilities, etc.]

The following links for “what you need to know” are located at the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at https://www.lowenstein.com/pro-bono/covid-19-response/housing

COVID-19: RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS: WHAT TENANTS NEED TO KNOW

Residential Evictions: What Tenants Need to Know – 1/12/2021

Residential Evictions: What Tenants Need to Know (Spanish) – 12/21/2021

COVID-19:  RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS: WHAT HOMEOWNERS NEED TO KNOW

Residential Evictions: What Homeowners Need to Know – 1/12/2021

Residential Evictions: What Homeowners Need to Know (Spanish) – 12/21/2021