Association leaders applaud signing of eviction prevention, utility assistance bill

NJAA’s Brogan, NJUA’s Churchelow say legislation gives proper assistance to residents, building owners

New Jersey Apartment Association Executive Director David Brogan and New Jersey Utilities Association President Tom Churchelow applauded the anti-eviction legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday, saying it struck the proper balance between assistance for residents and businesses.

The bill will provide $500 million in rental assistance — which will be added to the $600 million the state has already received in federal rental assistance. It also appropriates $250 million for utility assistance.

“This historic legislation is a comprehensive approach to ending the eviction moratorium, while providing tenant protections and additional rental assistance,” Brogan said. “This law will ensure that, as we transition out of the pandemic, landlords are provided certainty regarding when the eviction moratorium will end, along with the rent revenue they need to sustain their businesses.

“At the end of the day, this bill provides and protects housing stability for tenants in need, and ensures that landlords, especially small landlords, are not left in financial ruin.”

Churchelow said the bill will be a much-needed jump-start to utility payment issues.

“This new law provides sorely needed assistance to help pay down the well over $700 million in utility arrearages that exist in New Jersey,” he said.

Murphy said the legislation will ensure that New Jersey’s eviction moratorium continues through August for all state residents with household incomes below 120% of the Area Medium Income. The announcement earlier this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extending the nationwide moratorium on evictions for 60 days may provide additional protections for certain residents.

Murphy said the state needed to step in.

“We have heard the continuing calls for help from New Jerseyans who are struggling to pay their rent and utilities. COVID-19 has put tenants and landlords in a difficult place, and I am pleased to say that more assistance is on the way,” he said. “This bill is going to direct money to the people and programs that need it most. Housing and access to utilities are fundamental to human health and safety, and we want to ensure that as many eligible applicants impacted by the pandemic get the help they need during this challenging time.”

The programs will be run through the Department of Community Affairs, headed by Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.

“This comprehensive eviction protections bill is the result of some of the best and brightest minds coming together to find practical and realistic solutions for the struggling renters and landlords who have face unprecedented circumstances during this pandemic,” she said. “As DCA commissioner, I’m aware of the daily struggle that people are facing in finding and keeping housing, and our team at DCA is prepared to continue to administer housing and utility assistance to them. I’m in full support of the actions laid out in this bill package to make their lives easier as we financially recover from the pandemic.”

Brogan said his group is eager to get to work with others.

“It is imperative that the Department of Community Affairs provide this assistance as efficiently and effectively as possible,” he said. “We look forward to working with the administration to ensure the viability of New Jersey’s housing stock.

“The pandemic has been devastating for both landlords and tenants and we thank Sen. (Brian) Stack (D-Jersey City) for coming to a reasonable compromise that recognizes the struggles of both groups. Landlords and tenants are inextricably linked, and this bill takes into account both perspectives while creating a pragmatic pathway out of this pandemic.”

Churchelow agreed.

“We recognize the impact the pandemic has had on so many,” he said. “NJUA’s members have been and will continue to provide assistance and promote programs that help those in need.

“At the same time, they can only do so much. That is why it is so important that the utility assistance allocated in this new law be used to directly pay down utility arrearages; especially because it may be done without New Jerseyans having to apply for utility assistance programs.”

Additional details on S3691:

  • Ensures that eviction protection is available for tenants with household incomes below 120% AMI who were unable to pay their rent between the covered period of March 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021, and who provide a self-certification form to their landlords and, when applicable, to the court. Tenants meeting these requirements cannot ever be evicted for any outstanding rent during the covered period. While tenants who are covered by this special protection may not be evicted, this rent is still due to landlords and landlords may pursue this rent through a money judgment.
  • Provides additional eviction preventions for tenants with household incomes below 80% AMI, who have applied for state or local rental assistance, and who have experienced an economic impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants meeting these requirements who provide a self-certification for to their landlords and, when applicable, to the courts, are protected from eviction prior to Dec. 31, 2021, for unpaid rent accrued from Sept. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021. This is in addition to protection from eviction for rent accrued during the covered period as described above.
  • For the special eviction protections to take effect, the tenant MUST provide the required self-certification form to their landlord and, when applicable, to the courts.
  • All New Jersey households with income less than 120% AMI may apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
  • Landlords who are receiving rental assistance must waive any late fees accrued by tenants during the special protections period.
  • Landlords may not report delayed rent to crediting agencies and they cannot sell the debt.
  • Landlords may not disclose nonpayment of rent to others, and prospective landlords may not deny renting to a person who wasn’t able to pay rent during the covered period of March 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021.
  • The moratorium on home foreclosures ends Nov. 15, 2021, for all income levels. This includes landlords facing foreclosure who currently have tenants.