COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on October 14, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
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
- Are there any special protections for New Jersey renters during the COVID-19 emergency?
Yes, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has issued a moratorium on evictions, and the Supreme Court suspended eviction court proceedings.
Governor's Executive Order 106 went into effect on March 19, 2020. Evictions will be suspended for two months after the end of the Public Health Emergency or the State of Emergency, whichever ends later, unless the protections are revoked or modified.
Some renters are also eligible for U.S. national protections through December 31st. Check here below to see if you qualify.
- What do the protections mean for renters?
The protection means that through two months after the date of the end of New Jersey's Public Health Emergency or the State of Emergency, whichever ends later:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim against you.
- Hearings on eviction are suspended until further notice (as of June 14, 2020), and the court will not hear an eviction case against you before then.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?
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?
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 December 31, 2020.
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:
- 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 Dec. 31, 2020.
- 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 Dec. 31, 2020, 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 Dec. 31st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through December 31, 2020. 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 Dec. 31, 2020, 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.