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​​​​​​​​Welcome to the LSNJLAWSM website, provided by Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ). LSNJ is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering free legal advice to low-income people in New Jersey. Find legal information by clicking on a legal topic or typing a few words into the search box. ​

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Housing
Rental Assistance Programs
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COVID-Related Assistance

If you fell behind on your rent because you lost income, or have had increased expenses, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should apply for rental assistance. Some examples of a financial hardships related to COVID include things like having to take off work or pay for child care due to school closures, additional transportation costs if you could not take public transportation, increased bills for food and utilities or additional expenses incurred as a result of having to quarantine. If you received unemployment insurance benefits, that also qualifies as a COVID-19-related hardship. You can apply for rental assistance through the State of New Jersey, Department of Community Affairs, COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II (CVERAP II), and any other county or municipal rental assistance programs.

COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II (CVERAP Phase II) & Eviction Prevention Program (EPP). CVERAP II will pay back rent and provide 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. The Eviction Prevention Program (EPP) is an extension of the CVERAP II where households that have suffered deep economic losses through no fault of their own can receive further assistance. For more information, see COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II (CVERAP Phase II) (from the Department of Community Affairs).

County and municipal rental assistance programs. These sites provide rental assistance programs available in specific counties and municipalities: Find rental assistance programs in your area (from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and Housing, Legal, and Utilities Assistance During COVID-19 (from NJ Courts). You should also apply for rental assistance through the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II (CVERAP Phase II) (from the Department of Community Affairs).

Other Assistance

Other programs that can provide financial assistance with rent, utilities, and food include:

  • Department of Community Affairs (DCA). DCA has programs that may help with rent and heating costs, prevention of eviction, reduction of utility bills, and removal of lead hazards from your home. To be screened for these programs, visit DCA Service Portal.

  • New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA). NJHMFA provides free financial counseling to help you meet your rental obligations. More information is available at COVID-19 Resources for NJ Residents.

  • County and Municipal Welfare Agencies. County and municipal welfare agencies have programs to help with rent and other expenses. You can find more information about these programs, including where to apply at the NJ Helps website.

  • NJ211. NJ 211 provides information about federal, state and local systems created to help people who are struggling. Specialists have access to a resource database of over 7,600 community programs and services that assist people who need help with things like rent, food, utilities, affordable housing, rental assistance, mental and physical health, substance use disorders, child care, senior needs, legal assistance, transportation, disability services and so much more. You can contact NJ 211 by calling (simply dial 2-1-1), texting (send your zip code to 898-211), emailing ([email protected]), or by chatting online, NJ 211. NJ 211 also serves as the Statewide Homeless Hotline and New Jersey's Utility Assistance Hotline.

Where to look to apply for affordable housing

Many of these places may have long waiting lists.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can search for public housing, privately owned subsidized housing and public housing authorities that administer Section 8 vouchers, at HUD's Rental Assistance page.

New Jersey Housing Resource Center (NJHRC). The NJHRC is a FREE, online searchable registry of affordable and accessible housing units throughout the State of New Jersey, including affordable rental housing, affordable for-sale housing and housing with accessibility features. See the New Jersey Housing Resource Center (NJHRC) website.

New Jersey Guide to Affordable Housing. This guide lists income-restricted affordable housing units for rent and for sale in New Jersey: New Jersey Guide to Affordable Housing.

Does the landlord have to cooperate with rental assistance?

New Jersey law requires landlords to cooperate with rental assistance programs. A landlord’s failure to cooperate is a renter’s defense to a pending eviction action. If there is no pending eviction, the landlord’s noncooperation is also grounds to sue the landlord. A tenant should seek immediate legal assistance to avoid losing the rental assistance.

Under the Truth in Renting Act, landlords must cooperate with “any federal, state, or local rental assistance program or bona fide charitable organization which has committed to pay the rent due and owing.” This includes, but is not limited to, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), Temporary Rental Assistance (TRA) from a welfare agency, the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CVRAP), the Homelessness Prevention Program, and various local agency resources. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) is broader. Under that law, landlords cannot refuse “any lawful source of rent.”

Neither the NJLAD nor the Truth in Renting Act apply to situations where the landlord lives in the premises and there is one-tenant unit. However, there may be other legal arguments to make landlords comply with rental program requirements, and you should seek legal assistance. Case law in New Jersey supports a landlord’s duty to “mitigate damages.” That means a landlord has to take reasonable steps to avoid the loss of rental income, which can include cooperating with rental assistance. Also, in every contract, like a written or oral lease, there is an implied “covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” The people involved in any contract must deal with each other honestly, fairly, and in good faith, and not get in the way of the other side’s ability to do what they agreed to do. When a tenant agrees to pay rent in exchange for an apartment, the landlord cannot do anything to interfere with the tenant’s ability to pay the rent. The landlord would be breaking the implied agreement to act fairly and in good faith if the landlord refused to cooperate with a rental assistance program.

What if my landlord fails to comply?

Housing assistance counselors or mediators may also be available to make sure that your landlord cooperates in providing information and accepting the rental assistance.

Get copies of any correspondence sent to you by the agency, and if possible, any correspondence sent to the landlord.

Seek immediate legal assistance to get the landlord to comply and avoid losing the rental assistance. If your landlord refuses to accept rental assistance, you can also file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights, using the online portal NJBIAS, or call 1-866-405-3050.​​​​​​​

5/19/2022