Great Success for tenants: Legislature passes
& Governor signs S3691 into law
Tenants behind on rent must file certain forms right now to be protected from eviction
Dear Tenants and NJTO supporters, PLEASE READ ENTIRE LETTER!
Please read this entire email as it contains vital information.
The NJTO, along with other groups and advocates, has been working for about a year and a half with legislators and with the landlords to reach a compromise on a bill that would protect tenants from eviction because of nonpayment of rent from 3/1/20 through now, and to assist tenants and landlords by providing additional rental assistance for those tenants having trouble paying the rent going forward. This bill, S3691, was signed into law on 8/4/21 as P.L. 2021, c.188. Since then, we have worked with the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to make sure the law is properly implemented, and we believe it will be.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the sponsors of the bill — Senator Brian Stack (D-33) and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake — and to Governor Murphy for signing it and making sure it is properly administered. In addition, we thank our long time Board Member Connie Pascale, who created the strategy that this new law embodies, and who worked diligently to bring together many advocates and groups in support of this process.
The new law does many things, the most important of which are:
1. Prohibits eviction for nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment of rent, and nonpayment of a rent increase for rent due from 3/1/20 through 8/31/21 for tenant households under 120% of “Area Median Income” (AMI) for your household size and your county. This does NOT mean these tenants don’t owe the money. They do. But they can’t be evicted for it. They can, however be sued for it.
Existing eviction cases for back rent will be DISMISSED if the tenant files the proper certification.
2. Provides a new rental assistance program, called the Eviction Prevention Program, to help tenants in need to pay the rent going forward, in order to make sure that the same tenants who were saved from eviction for not paying back rent are not evicted because they still can’t pay the whole rent now (for up to two years). There is $500 million dollars budgeted for this program, so there may not be enough for everyone, unless more money is allocated in the future (which is possible).
3. Extends the eviction protections an additional 4 months, from 9/1/21 through 12/31/21, for tenants who certify their household income is less than 80% of AMI, that they have suffered economic hardship due to the COVID pandemic, and that they have applied for rental assistance.
It is critical that tenants behind on the rent do the following:
1. File the certification to get your case dismissed (or to prevent a case from being filed against you) for back rent from 3/1/20 through 8/31/21 (or, possibly through 12/31/21). This is an online certification found at:
New Jersey certification for case dismissal or prevention
It is one process for both the dismissal of 3/1/21 — 8/31/21 cases and for extension of the protection through 12/31/21. If you have an existing eviction case, you will be allowed to enter the Docket number of the case, so that the court will then dismiss the case. If there is no existing case for you, but you owe back rent, then the court will get the information and, hopefully, will not allow a new case to be filed against you for this back rent.
You can call (609) 490-4550 to do the certification form on the telephone, if you have trouble with the online process, although that process is very well designed.
You can print a copy of your certification using the online process, but it will also be sent to the email you provide.
It is important you send a copy of this certification to your landlord.
2. Also file a certification for the federal CDC moratorium, which has been extended through 10/31/21, and has higher income limits so that more people may be covered. That “declaration" needs to be given to your landlord. A link to the CDC declaration is also found at the above NJ DCA web page.
Make sure to fill out BOTH the NJ certification and the CDC declaration.
3. Apply for any rental assistance for which you may be eligible. The NJ DCA website for rental assistance applications is:
Rental Assistance Application
This is DCA’s “portal” for all federal COVID emergency rental assistance programs (CVERAP), which includes Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III, as well as the new New Jersey Eviction Prevention Program (EPP) created by the new law we just won.
The Phase I, II, and III programs can help you pay back rent (and some going forward) and the EPP program will help you pay rent going forward.
You can call the same phone number for assistance with this process: (609) 490-4550
(There are also rental assistance programs in each county.)
Finally, if your NJTO membership is not up to date, please make sure to renew now. We cannot continue to advocate for your rights without your support, as we are not a “funded” agency. We get no funding from any government source or private foundation. Our only source of funds is membership dues and donations.
The easiest way to renew is on our website, www.njto.org. Just scroll down to the SUBSCRIBE button, and it will lead you to PayPal, where you set up a recurring annual payment of the $25 NJTO annual dues using a credit or debit card or bank account. From then on it is automatic, once a year, although you can cancel it at any time.
To make additional donations, go down a little further to the DONATE button, which lets you make one-time donations of any amount using a credit or debit card.
If you prefer, you can mail a check for at least $25 to NJTO, 96 Linwood Plaza #233, Fort Lee, NJ 07024. Please include full address and contact information. There’s actually a form to do this on the website as well.
New Jersey Tenants Organization
96 Linwood Plaza #233
Fort Lee, NJ 07024