NJ renters have until Dec. 15 to apply for rental aid program as state’s eviction moratorium sunsets
By Kleibeel Marcano, Reporte Hispano
This story was produced as part of a six-month COVID-19 reporting fellowship with NJ ethnic and community media organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. It has been updated and edited from its original version.
NEW JERSEY — New Jersey tenants, who missed rent payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have until tomorrow, December 15, 2021, to apply for the state’s rental aid program.
All applicants need to fill out the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Income Self-Certification Form, and will be entered into a lottery to fairly distribute the remaining federal dollars. The form is available at https://covid19.nj.gov/forms/renterform.
For tenants who do not have access to the internet or need assistance, including language and translation, they can call 609-490-4550 and a representative will help fill the form out for them over the phone.
There are also several organizations in the state that provide assistance to tenants in completing certification and obtaining financial assistance for late rent payments, including La Casa Don Pedro, in Newark, and New Jersey Citizen Action.
“In New Jersey, we have some of the strongest protections and levels of assistance in the country, for which we are grateful,” Renee Koubiadis, anti-poverty program director at New Jersey Citizen Action, said at a recent press briefing organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. “We strongly recommend all tenants, who may have been affected by the pandemic, to request assistance and fill out the income self-certification form to obtain the [necessary] protections.”
By completing and submitting the income self-certification form to DCA, Koubiadis added, it would prevent landlords from evicting tenants from their homes for any rent payments they missed between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021.
The moratorium law, signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on August 4, 2021, establishes that if the tenant is behind on rent and the income is below 80% of the tenant’s Area Median Income (AMI), the tenant cannot be evicted until after December 31, 2021.
And if the tenant has been paying their rent on time since September 1, 2021, the landlord cannot initiate an eviction process.
The debt, however, is not forgiven. But the landlord only has the option of filing a monetary judgment for unpaid rent, which does not include an eviction order.
If the tenant’s income was less than 80% of the median income in the same area in which he resides, tenants who complete the self-certification will be protected until December 31, 2021.
Koubiadis noted that there are currently more than 55,000 eviction proceedings in state courts in the state, many of which could be stopped if tenants complete self-certification.
Everyone qualifies for help
The representative of New Jersey Citizen Action clarified that all tenants in the state, regardless of their immigration status, can fill out the self-certification and get help with the payment of back rent. She urged undocumented residents, who have problems with their rental payments during the pandemic, to apply to these legal protections.
In addition to the $ 1.2 billion dollars designated by the state for assistance with paying back rents, counties and municipalities also have federal funds to help their residents pay down rental debts.
Some municipalities have already exhausted aid funds, but others still have funds for their residents and continue to accept applications beyond December 15, 2021.
For more information on where to apply in your county or municipality, visit: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/renter-protections/find-help-with-rent-and- utilities/
Featured image caption: A vacated home in the northern part of Paterson, a city of nearly 150,000 in Passaic County, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Julian Rigg.)