On March 19, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 106 which suspends evictions throughout the state until 60 days after the Governor declares an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency, unless the Governor issues another Executive Order to end it sooner.
The COVID-19 “eviction moratorium” protects New Jersey tenants from being removed from their place of residence as a result of an eviction proceeding, except in rare circumstances as determined by a court. The moratorium also applies to all pre-existing eviction orders.
Eviction Court Proceedings
It is important to note that the moratorium on evictions does not affect a tenant’s responsibility to pay rent, nor does it stop eviction court proceedings. Rather it prevents lockouts and tenant removals.
The New Jersey Supreme Court controls eviction court proceedings and has issued an Order suspending landlord/tenant trials until May 31, 2020. During this time period, landlords can still file eviction complaints with the court. However, the court will not hear the case while its Order is in effect.
According to New Jersey law, only courts can order evictions, and only government officials have the authority to lawfully remove tenants from their homes. When the eviction moratorium ends, local official will resume enforcement of court eviction orders.
If your landlord is attempting to illegally evict you during the COVID-19 public health emergency in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, call your local police.
Eviction Protections for Motel Residents
Additionally, while Executive Order 106 permits a hotel or motel to evict a “transient guest or seasonal tenant”, long-term hotel and motel residents, along with others may also qualify for COVID-19 eviction protection under Administrative Orders 2020-08 and 2020-09 issued by the State Director of Emergency Management on April 4 and April 24, 2020.
Generally, residents should not be evicted if they “have no permanent housing to which they may safely or lawfully return and live at a hotel or motel on a continual basis.”
The following types of hotel and motel residents may qualify for eviction protection:
- those who are part of state initiatives aimed at getting people out of group shelters;
- those supported by a governmental housing assistance program;
- health-care workers who need a temporary place to stay;
- homeless people;
- individuals affected by domestic violence; and
- those staying in hotels or motels in compliance with a court order.
Federal Eviction Protections
In addition to the New Jersey eviction moratorium, the recently passed federal CARES Act also provides COVID-19 eviction protection to tenants whose landlords have a federally backed mortgage. In these instances, landlords may not file for eviction against tenants for nonpayment of rent, or charge late fees or attorney’s fees related to the nonpayment of rent, for 120 days from March 27, 2020. After July 25, 2020, landlords with federally backed mortgages must give tenants a 30-day notice before an eviction complaint can be filed.
This 120-day federal eviction moratorium applies to tenants participating in federally-subsidized housing programs (Section 8).
Furthermore, landlords renting five or more units in a building receiving a payment forbearance on a federally backed mortgage cannot file for eviction during the period of mortgage forbearance, which may extend beyond July 25. These landlords must also give tenants 30 days notice of intent to evict after the forbearance period ends.
Both federal and state COVID-19 eviction protection laws are fact sensitive, so it is critical to get guidance specific to your individual circumstances. You can contact the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, Community Health Law Project, or Legal Services of New Jersey.
COVID-19 Rental Assistance
Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order 128, during the Covid-19 public health crisis and for up to 60 days thereafter, tenants can use their security deposit, including any interest earned, to pay rent or use as a credit toward future rent. Tenants must send a written request by mail or email to the landlord.
Tenants who renew or extend their rental lease agreement after April 24, 2020 must repay the security deposit within six months after the COVID-19 public health crisis is declared over, or on the date the lease was renewed or extended, whichever is later. Tenants that do not renew or extend their leases do not need to repay the security deposit to the landlord.
New Jersey tenants and landlords are encouraged to work together to arrange rental payment plans that work for them. Tenants having difficulty paying rent due to COVID-19 related financial hardship may qualify for certain rental assistance programs. Check the state’s COVID-19 website, NJ 211 or visit DCAid.
For more information, watch this recorded Zoom webinar “Housing Protections During COVID-19” presented by New Jersey Citizen Action.
The information on this website is intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis of legal advice of any kind. Individuals seeking specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.