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What if I can’t pay my rent? Can I still get evicted? Is there any rental relief?
The State of New Jersey has introduced new protections to renter households who experienced economic hardships during the pandemic:
- All renter households with incomes below 120% of their county's Area Median Income are permanently protected against eviction or removal at any time for nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment of rent, or failure to accept a rent increase that accrued from March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021.
- Low- and moderate-income households who have applied for state or local rental assistance, and who have experienced an economic impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic are also protected from eviction for unpaid rent accrued through December 31, 2021.
- These protections are not affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision regarding the CDC's eviction moratorium.
For the special New Jersey eviction protections to take effect, you must provide the required self-certification form to your landlord, and if there is a pending action against you, to the courts.
Complete the self-certification form to understand which protections you may be eligible for, submit a self-certification of your income to the courts, and receive a copy of the form that can be kept in your records and shared with your landlord at covid19.nj.gov/renter.
Note that even if you qualify for protections, your rent is still due to your landlord. Unpaid rent will be considered a "civil debt," recoverable through a money judgment, but not grounds for eviction.
The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II (CVERAP Phase II) provides rental arrears and temporary rental assistance to low-and moderate-income households that have had a substantial reduction in income, have qualified for unemployment benefits, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic. By August 31, 2021, the rental assistance program will expand its scope of eligible applicants to include additional middle-income households.
Landlords must accept all rental assistance for which their tenants are eligible.
To learn more about the program and eligibility criteria, visit the NJ Department of Community Affairs' CVERAP Phase II program page.
Legal Protections and Action
In addition to eviction protections described above, New Jersey law protects renters in a number of other ways:
- 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 non-payment 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 August 31, 2021.
- Landlords must accept all sources of lawful income as rent payment, including rental assistance such as CVERAP.
If you are a tenant, you can file a special civil case as an emergent matter if 1) you have been locked out by your landlord without a court order; 2) you have had your utilities turned off or otherwise not able to live in your rental home; or 3) you need access to your personal property and/or have had your personal property taken by your landlord.
Use the Illegal Lockout packet and email it to the emergent filing mailbox for your county (click here for a directory). Your local court ombudsman is available to answer any questions you might have.
You can also access free legal assistance through Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ). Learn more by visiting their site, or get advice, referrals, and information through their hotline by calling 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) or by visiting www.LSNJLawHotline.org.
Additional Housing Assistance
Visit www.nj.gov/dca/dcaid to see if you are eligible for any of the state's housing assistance programs. These include temporary assistance to households who are being evicted due to a short- term loss of income and temporary financial assistance to help pay for housing and case management and services to maintain housing. There are also programs available to help veterans, low-income families, the elderly, single-parents, and more.
Source: Executive Order No. 106; https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200328c.shtml; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200319c.shtml; Executive Order No. 128; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200424c.shtml; https://njcourts.gov/selfhelp/emergent.html?lang=eng