Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
Help (new window)
Navigate Up
Legal Services of New Jersey  Legal Services of New Jersey

Apply Online for Legal Help

During the COVID-19 pandemic the LSNJ Hotline will remain open during its normal business hours. Our Hotline staff will be working remotely and you may encounter delays when calling.


Health Care
Frequently Asked Questions for Tenants, Hotel/Motel Residents, and Other Occupants During COVID-19

Can I be evicted during the pandemic?

Tenants

A landlord would have to go through the court process and establish one of the grounds for eviction in court. Most landlords can file a complaint now, but some have to wait pursuant to the CARES Act (explained below). Pursuant to Executive Order 106, those landlords, who have, or are able to obtain, an eviction judgment and warrant for removal, cannot lock a tenant out until two months following the end of the Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency declared by the Governor, whichever is later, unless the Governor modifies the Order. However, the court or a landlord may make a motion to proceed with a lockout before this time if it is necessary “in the interest of justice.” An example of this may be if a tenant is violent and endangering other tenants.

Hotel or Motel Residents

Pursuant to Administrative Order No. 2020-9 from the State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety Division of New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management, anyone living in a hotel or motel with no other permanent housing is entitled to the same protection against eviction as those covered by Executive Order 106—for example, no lockout for two months following the end of the Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency declared by the Governor, whichever is later, unless the Governor modifies the Order. Some hotel or motel residents may be entitled to the protections of the Anti-Eviction Act, even after the end of Executive Order 106.

Other Occupants

If there is no landlord-tenant relationship or other legal right to removal in a property, an occupant may be removed through an ejectment action (Verified Complaint and Order to Show Cause for Writ of Possession). Ejectment actions are not explicitly addressed in Executive Order 106. You should seek legal advice on to how to respond.

What can I do if I am illegally locked out?

Call the police. If they do not assist you in getting back in, you must file a complaint and order to show cause with the court in order to have your matter heard right away. Go to the Judiciary website and follow the instructions under “Illegal Lockouts.” In your court papers, make sure to reference any Administrative Order or Executive Order that applies. If you are in a hotel, make sure to reference the above Administrative Order in your complaint.

Can a complaint for eviction be filed against me during the pandemic?

Yes. In most cases, the complaint can be filed if the landlord or owner has grounds to remove you. If a landlord files for eviction, the tenant will not be served the court papers until a trial date has been assigned. Some tenants have been served court papers, and their trials have been adjourned during the pandemic. At this writing, most trials are suspended until further notice.

In some cases, a landlord may apply for an Order to Show Cause for eviction in order to get a trial date. The complaint cannot be nonpayment of rent, except in the case of the death of the tenant. In determining whether to issue the Order to Show Cause, the court will review the complaint and determine whether an emergency exists (e.g., violence against other tenants; criminal activity; extreme damage to residence; death of tenant resulting in vacancy of the rental unit), and based on that determination may schedule a landlord/tenant trial. Even if the landlord gets a judgment, the landlord may have to wait to schedule a lockout pursuant to Executive Order 106, unless it is necessary “in the interest of justice.”

Even if your case has not been assigned a trial date, you may still receive a notice about a settlement conference. Settlements are voluntary. You should still seek legal advice.

Am I still obligated to pay rent during the pandemic?

Yes. You are still obligated to pay rent during the pandemic.

Under what circumstances does a landlord have to wait to file an eviction complaint?

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, there is a moratorium for nonpayment of rent evictions for certain federal housing rental programs, such as:

  • Public housing;
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program;
  • Section 8 project-based housing;
  • Section 202 housing for the elderly
  • Section 811 housing for people with disabilities;
  • Section 236 multifamily rental housing;
  • Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) housing;
  • HOME;
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA);
 
  • McKinney-Vento Act homelessness programs;
  • Section 515 Rural Rental Housing;
  • Sections 514 and 516 Farm Labor Housing;
  • Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants;
  • Section 538 multifamily rental housing;
  • Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC); and
  • Rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949

The CARES Act moratorium also covers tenants who live in properties where there is a federally backed mortgage, which is further defined by the Act. If you live in multifamily dwelling, you can find out if it has a federally backed mortgage by searching these databases:

You also can find information regarding your landlord’s mortgage by searching the register of deeds in your county.

The moratorium only applies to eviction actions for nonpayment of rent that were filed after March 27 2020. For most tenants protected by the CARES Act, the moratorium is for 120 days, and ends on July 25th. No late charges may accrue during this time period. Also, prior to filing any eviction complaint, the landlord would have to serve the tenant with a 30 day notice, which must be given after the end of the moratorium. Landlords who receive forbearances of federally backed multifamily mortgage loans must respect identical renter protections for the duration of the forbearance.

Are there any further protections for tenants in subsidized housing?

In a recent news article, Governor Murphy Enacts Moratorium on Removals of Individuals Due to Evictions or Foreclosures, the Department of Community Affairs indicated that it would:

  • Suspend terminations for non-essential reasons (those not involving violence and/or threats to others) in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP),
  • Extend the housing search period for all current voucher holders to the full 120 days allowed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for those without disabilities or who are not elderly for the housing search period. Voucher holders needing more than 120 days to identify housing may request extensions through the online portal, via phone call, or mail as needed; and
  • Prepare to accept from its clients interim income re-certifications due to decreased income from the public and private responses to COVID-19. Income re-certifications may be submitted through DCA’s online portal and through mail. DCA is providing remote access, if necessary, to key employees to process requests as quickly as possible

Can I use my security deposit for rent?

Yes, but in some circumstances, you may have to pay another deposit. Please read “Your Security Deposit” from our June 2019 newsletter, Looking Out For Your Legal Rights. If you fit the requirements for applying your deposit to the rent, you can apply your deposit pursuant to the Rent Security Deposit Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8-19, et seq., and you do not have an obligation to replenish the deposit. You can use the sample letters included in that article.

Executive Order 128 allows tenants to apply their security deposits plus accrued interest to rent, even if the landlord provided notice pursuant to the Rent Security Deposit Act. Accrued interest is the interest it earns in a bank account. The Order applies to security deposits that are covered by the Rent Security Deposit Act N.J.S.A. 46:8-19 et seq. That statute does not automatically include security deposits paid by tenants in owner occupied dwellings, which consist of the owner plus one or two residential units (See section “Does the Act apply to all landlords?” in the article “Your Security Deposit” from our June 2019 newsletter, Looking Out For Your Legal Rights.

The tenant would have to make a request. We recommend that it be in writing, by letter or email, and that you keep a hard copy. The letter should include the following:

  • I am applying my security deposit of $ ____________ plus accrued interest of $___________to rent pursuant to Executive Order 128 signed by Governor Murphy on April 24, 2020;
  • A copy of the Order may be found online at https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-128.pdf or by going to nj.gov/governor >> News and Events >> Executive Orders >> 128 Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Providing Critical Short-Term Support for Renters 2020/04/24;
  • You can also print and enclose a copy of the Order

The Order states that if the tenant and landlord extend or renew the lease, then the tenant has to replenish the security deposit six months following the end of the Public Health Emergency or on the date on which the current lease is extended or renewed, whichever is later. Tenants with concerns or questions as to how a landlord may enforce this, and the likelihood of success, should seek legal advice.

Are there any rental assistance programs created or expanded in response to the pandemic?

Newark’s Emergency Housing Assistance Fund: Newark created a $1 million Emergency Housing Assistance Fund to provide low-income residents up to $1,000 each to help pay rent or utilities. This is a one-time assistance program unless the city can get more funds. For more information, go to https://newarkcovid19.com/programs/emergency-rent-grants

Perth Amboy Approves Reallocation of $200,000 in Home Funds to Eligible Residents: The Puerto Rican Association for Human Development (PRAHD) will be administering these funds. You must be a current resident of Perth Amboy. Proof of citizenship is required. You must also be able to document a COVID-19 related hardship (unemployment or letter from employer stating that you were laid off or had a reduction in hours due to COVID-19). Landlord verification of back rent due is required. For additional information or to apply for rental assistance, residents are asked to contact PRAHD at (732) 638-2870.

COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CVERAP): The application period for this program has closed. According to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, applicants should know by July 29 whether they have been selected for the program. Status information will be available at: https://www.waitlistcheck.com. The status of those selected will be “active” and others will be “inactive.”

Can my rent be increased?

New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency (NJHMFA) properties have suspended rent increases amid Covid-19. To see if your property is a NJHMFA property, please go to the NJ DCA website. Some municipalities also may have suspended rent increases during the pandemic.

Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?

Utility companies in New Jersey have agreed not to terminate service during the pandemic. You still have an obligation to pay your utility bill. If you have problems paying your utilities, you can find information about available resources on our website at www.lsnjlaw.org/utilities.

What can I do if the property owner resorts to illegal tactics?

If you are being illegally locked out, call the police. If your matter still is not resolved, file a complaint for illegal eviction with the court by following the instructions under “Illegal Lockouts” on the Judiciary website.

If your landlord is ignoring an Executive Order, you can file a complaint by completing an Executive Order Violation Form on the New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub website.

If your landlord is demanding sexual favors in exchange for the rent, such harassment is illegal and violates the Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. If this happens, file a complaint with the NJ US Attorney’s Office online or by calling 1-844-380-6178 and/or contact the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Housing Discrimination hotline at 1-866-405-3050.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

7/21/2020
× Say Their Names