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NJ endorses plan to stop rental eviction tsunami

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A plan has been approved by New Jersey lawmakers to deal with the state’s tenant-owner housing crisis caused by the COVID pandemic.

After the declaration of the health emergency in March 2020, more than a million New Jersey residents were left unemployed and Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent .

But with the health emergency sent to expire early next month, members of the state Assembly and Senate have approved legislation, A5685 and S3691, which would end the moratorium on evictions while protecting tenants and providing tenants and small landlords with hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance.

The legislation that has been approved protects low-, moderate- and middle-income households from eviction for non-payment or late payment of rent until the end of August 2021. For some tenants, eviction protection would last until the end of August 2021. For some tenants, eviction protection would last until the end of August 2021. the end of this year.

David Brogan, executive director of the New Jersey Apartments Association, said the legislation stipulated that the amount of rent owed to a landlord during the period covered would be considered a civil debt and could be sued as a pecuniary judgment in a court of law. court.

“And what that means is that debt cannot be the basis for eviction,” he said. “So that in itself should stop the potential deportation tsunami that I think everyone was concerned about.”

He said the legislation also provides additional funding for rent assistance, which means that in total “you’re talking about $ 1.1 billion to help tenants get back on their feet, ideally as they go. as the rental assistance rolls out, they can get back to normal.

Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said the legislation represents a fair and balanced compromise.

“This is a thoughtful and well thought out approach to lifting the moratorium on evictions and ensuring that tenants and small landlords have the resources they need to get through the end of the pandemic,” she said. .

She said the eviction is a huge threat and has a disproportionate impact on minority families.

The law requires that payments made by a tenant after the end of the coverage period be credited to the current month’s rental obligation first, and then any balance to be credited against any arrears owed by the tenant.

Legislation approved by lawmakers directs the administrative director of courts to provide information on tenant protections, rental assistance programs, and COVID-19 income and impact certificates needed to get help at all residential tenant who is party to a dispute between landlord and tenant for non-payment. of rent.

A companion measure also approved, A5905, establishes the Rental Navigation Assistance Program at the Ministry of Community Affairs.

It will prevent residential evictions due to non-payment and the usual late payment of rent during the pandemic.

If a residential tenant missed one or more rent payments during the COVID crisis, the bill will allow that tenant or their landlord to apply for rent assistance through the program.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at [email protected]

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