Murphy signs law to help hard-hit N.J. renters. It also ends eviction moratorium sooner for some.

Posted Aug 04, 2021

New Jersey’s eviction moratorium will end early for families above a certain income threshold under a sweeping bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Wednesday that will also provide $750 million in aid for residents who have struggled to keep up with rent and utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic governor signed a moratorium on evictions early in the pandemic to protect from eviction tenants who lost jobs and income as businesses were forced to shut down and unemployment skyrocketed last year.

Under the moratorium, landlords have been unable to evict or lock out tenants, though more than 60,000 cases were been filed with the courts between April 2020 and April 2021. Housing advocates feared a tsunami of evictions once the moratorium is lifted.

“Getting money into the accounts of tenants so they can pay back some of their back rent is just one aspect. Money alone is not the solution. Money alone is not going to make a family feel more secure in their home, and money alone is not going to help landlords,” Murphy said before signing the bill at an event in Union City. “This law will also responsibly wind down our eviction moratorium in a uniform way while protecting both the rights of good tenants and honest landlords.”

Under the first of two laws Murphy signed, renters making less than 80% of the area’s median income will be shielded from eviction through Dec. 31. Those with income above 80% of the median will see the moratorium come to an end on Aug. 31.

For tenants who certify under penalty of perjury that they are unable to make rent payments due to the pandemic and meet other criteria, courts will dismiss eviction cases for nonpayment of rent or failure to pay rent increases between March 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021. Rent for that period will become civil debt that cannot be reported to creditors or be used to deny future housing.

A foreclosure moratorium for New Jersey homeowners is now slated to end Nov. 15.

Tenants with income below 80% of the median will be protected from eviction due to rent owed between March 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021.

Landlords can still try to evict delinquent renters in civil court, but lawmakers say this law (S3691) will help avoid a wave of evictions once the moratoriums are lifted.

The bipartisan law also appropriates $500 million of New Jersey’s federal American Rescue Plan aid for rental assistance and another $250 million for utility payments. That relief is available to residents with income less than 120% of the area’s median. In Hudson County, for example, a family of four with less than $83,400 in income would qualify for help, Murphy said.

The measure was praised by housing advocates, as well as landlord groups.

“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,” David Brogan, executive director of the New Jersey Apartment Association, said in a statement. “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.”

Housing advocates warned, though, that more funding is needed to stave off the looming crisis.

“It is critical that the polices in this bill are implemented quickly and effectively, and that additional steps are taken, including making more funds available, to achieve the strongest COVID housing protections and recovery possible,” said Beverly Brown Ruggia of NJ Citizen Action. “With the delta variant infections on the rise, we must recommit to ensuring no one in New Jersey is turned onto the street because of the pandemic.”

A second measure signed into law Wednesday will make confidential some eviction records

A second measure Murphy signed into law Wednesday (A4463) will make confidential some landlord-tenant legal actions filed during the pandemic emergency. The law, which aims to remove some of the hurdles renters face when applying housing, also prohibits landlords from considering a nonpayment court record stemming from the pandemic.

Under the Democratic-sponsored law, companies and people that collect, distribute, or sell court filing information must remove eviction records relating to nonpayment of rent within 30 days. If not, they could face fines of up to $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for any other violations.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Legislature along partisan lines.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-08-05 02:07:46 -0700