Legal FAQs for Renters in
Table of Contents
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Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
How can I get rent help?
Learn about Rent Assistance programs to help with housing costs
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there any special protections for New Jersey renters during the COVID-19 emergency?
The national CDC eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021. Please reach out to legal services if you are worried about eviction.
Yes, New Jersey has passed a law that renters making less than 80% of area median income are protected from eviction through December 31, 2021. This is for eviction s based on non-payment of rent, for rent due during the COVID emergency.
Other renters (with income above 80% of area median income) had been protected from eviction through August 31, 2021. That protection is now expired.
- What do the protections mean for renters in New Jersey?
The protection means that for many New Jersey renters :
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim against you.
- Hearings on eviction may proceed, with some cases proceeding through the courts.
- The court cannot issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- Law enforcement cannot enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
Check how your income compares to your area median income. If your income is above 80% of the area median income, then your protections expired on August 31, 2020. If your income is below that level, then your protections expire on December 31, 2021.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, New Jersey renters must still pay their rent.
You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency, but you may be evicted as soon as special protections end.
Also, Executive Order 128 allows tenants to use their security deposit toward the rent. This is effective up to sixty days after the Public Health Emergency terminates. Tenants must replenish security deposit in full six months following the end of the Public Health Emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Apply for rental assistance: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help.
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. Also check here. Beware, your landlord has no obligation to agree to reduce your rent or enter into a repayment arrangement.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the COVID emergency in New Jersey?
New Jersey utility companies have agreed not to shut off utilities during the emergency because a customer is unable to pay.
You still have an obligation to pay your utility bill. Check for financial help.
Landlords are never allowed to engage in self-help eviction and shut off a renter’s utilities in an attempt force a tenant out. Self-help eviction is illegal. Call the police if this happens. If the police are not helpful, then you may seek court intervention. If you need legal assistance, please contact your local bar association or Legal Services of New Jersey.
- What if I need repairs during COVID in New Jersey?
Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.
The emergency may delay your landlord's ability to make repairs, but if they are urgent you should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible.
Emergency repairs could be for problems with:
- Running water or hot water
- Heat or air conditioning
- Stove or oven
- Bathroom use
- Missing doors, locks, or windows
If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs and keep a copy of this communication.
Contact your local code enforcement officer in your municipality for further assistance.
Find legal help to get advice for your situation.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through August 26, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Live in a county with High or Substantial COVID rates. Find your county at the CDC tracker map (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). If your county has been in the Moderate or Low category for 14 consecutive days, then the Moratorium does not apply to you.
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through August 26, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on August 26, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through August 26th. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through August 26, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on August 26, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
Can I break my lease during COVID in New Jersey?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID in New Jersey?
Are eviction cases still proceeding through New Jersey courts?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in New Jersey. What should I do?
You do not have to leave your home yet. Check whether your notice is legally valid, depending on your situation.
If you live in a private home, and are being evicted for nonpayment of rent:
In New Jersey, your landlord does not have to serve you with a notice stating you must pay your rent or you must vacate. In most cases, the landlord can proceed with eviction for nonpayment of rent by simply filing a complaint for eviction based on nonpayment of rent.
If you live in public housing or federally subsidized housing, and are being evicted for nonpayment of rent:
Your landlord must provide you with a notice that they are terminating your tenancy before they file an eviction complaint in court.
If your landlord is suing you for back rent they say you owe:
If the landlord wants to seek a money judgment against a tenant for rent money owed, then the landlord may file a complaint in the civil division for breach of contract to collect the back rent. The landlord does not need to provide written notice prior to the institution of lawsuit seeking money damages.
For situations when a landlord must give you a notice before filing for eviction, they must follow specific rules to be valid. This warning notice is called a notice to quit. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.
These are New Jersey’s requirements for a Notice to Quit:
- The notice must be written down.
- It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for a lease violation, or other reason.
- The notice may be: Physically handed to the tenant, Physically handed to someone at the property who is at least 14 years old, or Sent by Certified Mail.
Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find legal help here.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home?
A tenant can only be evicted through a court process. The landlord must go through the courts in order to have a tenant evicted.
A landlord cannot take the law into his or her own hands (self-help eviction). Self-help eviction is against the law and is a criminal offense.
Call the police if the landlord locks you out. Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.
- Do I have to leave my home by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date in New Jersey?
No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the notice to quit.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the notice to quit passes, your landlord then may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
Find legal help here to prepare for going to court.
What if I cannot afford to pay the rent for my home in New Jersey?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in New Jersey?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in New Jersey. What should I do?
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit.
In New Jersey, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
- The summons and complaint can be mailed to you by the court, delivered to you by an officer of the court, left at your home with a child over the age of 14, or posted on your door.
- The hearing will be 10 days or more from the day when you receive the Summons and Complaint.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, you are required to show up to the court, if you want to avoid the eviction. If the tenant does not show up, the landlord will win by default.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in New Jersey?
You can come to an agreement outside of court, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.
You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.
How can I get rent help?
- Who can help me with rent that I owe?
If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.
Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.
Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.
- Am I eligible for rent relief?
Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.
You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.
You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.
You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.
- Does immigration status matter for rent relief?
Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.
Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.
Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?
Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?
Its information is taken from these sources:Legal Services of New JerseyNJ utilities informationGov. order on evictionsSupreme Court orderPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker