Early this month, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation to provide comprehensive housing eviction prevention and utility assistance for renters who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation (S-3691) appropriates an additional $500 million for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CVERAP) and $250 million for utility assistance, both programs administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

The bill also mandates new eviction and foreclosure moratorium deadlines and special eviction protections for tenants who were directly impacted by the pandemic. This legislation ensures that New Jersey’s eviction moratorium continues through the end of this month for all state residents with household incomes below 120% Area Medium Income (AMI) and through the end of the year for certain households with incomes below 80% AMI. The announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extending the nationwide moratorium on evictions for 60 days may provide additional protections for certain residents.

The Governor also signed legislation (A-4463) providing additional protections for individuals who were unable to pay rent during the public health emergency by mandating that court records pertaining to their non-payment during this period be kept confidential.

“We have heard the continuing calls for help from New Jerseyans who are struggling to pay their rent and utilities. COVID-19 has put tenants and landlords in a difficult place, and I am pleased to say that more assistance is on the way,” said Governor Murphy. “This bill is going to direct money to the people and programs that need it most. Housing and access to utilities are fundamental to human health and safety and we want to ensure that as many eligible applicants impacted by the pandemic get the help they need during this challenging time.”

While the eviction moratorium protects renters from being evicted if they cannot pay their rent, it does not prevent landlords from evicting renters for other causes. Renters who are protected from eviction by the moratorium still have to pay back the rent they owe their landlords.

“Renters should be aware that the eviction moratorium only protects renters who meet certain criteria,” said Brian Carberry, Managing Editor with Apartment Guide. “Landlords are still able to evict tenants for a number of other reasons, such as criminal activity or violating the terms of your lease.”

The eviction prevention bill will gradually phase out the New Jersey’s eviction moratorium based on individual renters’ situations while mandating special protections for those who were unable to pay their rent during the period of March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021, or, for certain tenants, through December 31, 2021. Additionally, the CVERAP program, which was previously aimed at those who were making less than 80 percent of AMI, will expand its scope of eligible applicants by August 31, 2021, to include those making less than 120 percent of AMI.