The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated New Jersey’s housing crisis. Necessary public health measures taken during the pandemic and job loss have caused severe economic difficulties for landlords and tenants alike.
To help alleviate the pressure renters are experiencing as we begin to see an end to emergency measures enacted during the public health crisis, a bill aiming to help residents navigate rental assistance programs was signed into law on Monday.
The new law (formerly bill A-5905), sponsored by Assemblywomen Timberlake and Speight and Assemblyman William Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester), will establish the “Rental Assistance Navigation Program” in the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”). It will facilitate the prevention of residential evictions due to nonpayment and habitual late payment of rent during the COVID period, a timeframe from March 1, 2020, through December 31, 2021. The types of nonpayment eviction actions prohibited would also include those for any refusal to pay or agree to a rental increase during the COVID period. If a residential tenant has missed one or more rent payments during the COVID period, the bill would allow the tenant, or their landlord, to apply for rental assistance through the program.
The sponsors issued the following statement on the new law:
“The loss of millions of jobs and the resulting economic crisis caused by the pandemic has the potential to trigger an eviction tsunami in the coming months if we do not act now. It is estimated that more than 300,000 tenants could face eviction following the end of the eviction moratorium established under Executive Order 106, a significant increase over pre-pandemic filings.
“While many tenants have faced economic hardship during the pandemic, landlords have shouldered the financial burden of housing their tenants, maintaining their buildings, paying their mortgages, taxes, and other financial obligations with limited help from the State or federal government and reduced rental income. There is, also, a backlog in the courts, where more than 194,000 eviction cases are currently pending. Enlisting the Department of Community Affairs to help facilitate rental assistance and eviction programs will create an alternate means of adjudicating the challenge renters and landlords are facing, providing an alternative route to financial relief than the courts.”