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 July 3, 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 renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
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 July 25, 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 U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.