If you fell behind on your rent due to a temporary setback or if your rent is no longer affordable, it is important to look into resources that can help. Here are some:
What if I have an upcoming court date?
On August 5, 2021, the Administrative Office of the Courts issued a Notice to the Bar stating that if a tenant provided documentation of a pending application for rental assistance “the judge shall adjourn the mandatory settlement conference or trial date to allow for resolution of the rental assistance application for a period of 60 days or when the application is resolved, if earlier.” This means that if you show that you applied for rental assistance and the application has not been resolved with a decision yet, the judge must move the mandatory settlement conference or trial date back. At this writing that Notice remains in effect. The Notice is online at www.njcourts.gov/sites/default/files/notices/2021/08/n210805a.pdf. It also states that “The judge may expand the 60-day adjournment period if the parties agree or if the judge determines that exceptional circumstances exist.” Even if the Notice is no longer in effect, you can still request an adjournment.
What if I am approved after the court date?
You still have some time to pay rent and get an eviction case for nonpayment of rent dismissed. The tenant can pay the balance due:
The landlord cannot add a late fee to the amount due that is listed application for the warrant of removal. After the tenant pays the balance, the landlord must provide receipts and notify the court within two business days so that the case can be dismissed. If that does not happen, then you may file a motion to dismiss the case. Even though you paid the rent and were not locked out, the eviction case could still show up for a period of 7 years, because a judgment entered on the case. For more information about when an eviction case is confidential, go to When is an eviction matter confidential?.
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 applies to situations where the landlord lives in the premises and there is a 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 (bias.njcivilrights.gov/en-US), or call 1-866-405-3050.
Where to look to apply for affordable housing
Many of these places may have long waiting lists. If you are being evicted, applying for these would not be an immediate solution. However, it is a good idea to get on a waiting list.
This information last reviewed: May 30, 2023