Since COVID-19 first overtook us in 2020, Lowenstein has been working to prevent the mass eviction of tenants who lost income as a result of the pandemic and could not keep up with their rent. As part of a coalition convened by our nonprofit partner Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, we have reviewed, negotiated, revised, renegotiated, and revised again legislation to protect tenants from losing their homes during a period when sheltering in private has been the best defense against the spread of infection.
In August 2021, New Jersey passed one of the bills we had shepherded for months. The law accomplishes several critical goals, including:
Eviction Prevention - The law protects low-, moderate-, and middle-income households from eviction based on various forms of rental debt, including nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment of rent, or failure to pay a rent increase. Households that certify their eligibility cannot be evicted because of rental debt that accrued between March 1, 2020, and either August 31 or December 31, 2021, depending on their income level. This protection is permanent. A tenant who has established eligibility may never be evicted based on rental debt that came due during the applicable “covered period.” The landlord can still sue to collect the debt, but only as a money judgment.
Credit Protection - The law prohibits landlords from giving information about rental debt that a household accumulated during the applicable covered period to another residential landlord, a debt collector, or a credit reporting agency.
Rental Assistance - The law appropriates $500 million that will be used primarily to help pay prospective rent for eligible families starting in 2022. This money will supplement the funds previously dedicated to helping pay rental arrears that accumulated in 2020 and 2021. Because the total amounts are not sufficient to meet the need, we continue to seek additional funding, but the state estimates that the $500 million appropriated in August will reach 28,000 households who might otherwise have faced eviction for rental debt that has accrued or will accrue after the covered period.
The firm is proud to have been part of the monthslong effort to craft this legislation and the ongoing work to extend protection for tenants.
Households that certify their eligibility cannot be evicted because of rental debt that accrued between March 1, 2020, and either August 31 or December 31, 2021, depending on their income level. This protection is permanent.