With unemployment rates the highest they’ve ever been since the Great Depression, three Assembly Democrats have sponsored a bill that would allow tenants to pay rent with a credit card in order to delay the financial impact of the payment. The legislation passed the full Assembly Monday, 66-2-5.
The bill (A-4182) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin, Benjie Wimberly and Clinton Calabrese would require landlords to allow both commercial and residential tenants to pay their rent with a credit card during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
“To say that these are not normal times in which we are living would be an understatement,” said Assemblyman Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic). “The usual way of doing things cannot stay the same in the midst of social and economic turmoil. Rent payments are no exception. If we are to avoid mass evictions, landlords must make reasonable accommodations to help the many New Jersey residents and business owners facing financial difficulties as a result of this pandemic.”
Many landlords do not currently permit tenants to pay with a credit card because of transaction fees and a tenant’s ability to claim the charge was fraudulent. To address the issues with this payment method, the bill stipulates that associated transaction fees would be the tenant’s responsibility and any payment disputed as fraudulent and charged back to the landlord would be considered non-payment of rent.
“Many residents are struggling to pay their bills right now because of the significant financial toll this pandemic has taken on our state,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Unfortunately, both landlords and renters are experiencing economic hardship, which means we need to seek ways to help everyone get through this. The intent of this bill is to help landlords get paid on time while giving renters a chance to pay off the charge at a later date when they are more financially stable.”
Since the start of the emergency, well over one million residents have filed for unemployment. Even with more of the state beginning to reopen, many businesses have had to permanently shut their doors and at least 20,000 new claims are still being filed every week.
“It’s going to take time for many of our residents to financially recover from this pandemic,” said Assemblyman Calabrese. “We need to provide as many options as possible for rent payments in order to give renters time to return to work and earn an income again. Using a credit card for rent will allow tenants to pay it off in installments or wait until they have more money in the bank, rather than having to pay it all at once up-front.”
If signed into law, the legislation would take effect immediately and expire one year after the end of both the COVID-19 state of emergency and public health emergency.
The bill will now go to the Senate.