22 Apr New Jersey Evictions During Coronavirus
CORONAVIRUS HAS UPENDED EVICTIONS IN NEW JERSEY
Based on growing concerns arising from the Coronavirus, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy enacted Executive Order No. 106 to address evictions during the COVID-19 emergency. There is a lot of misinterpretation of what the order does. What is it does is stops lockouts in rent Evictions during the pandemic and for up to an additional 60 days following a public health emergency. What it does not do is relieve tenants from their obligations to pay rent during the Coronavirus outbreak. Tenants still have to pay rent. Landlords still can file evictions. The Order only limits the final step in eviction, that is a landlord’s ability to lock out a tenant out during the Coronavirus outbreak, and for up to sixty days thereafter. This makes it likely that it may be a minimum of three months before landlords will be able to lock out tenants for non-payment of rent, and perhaps much longer, depending on how the public health emergency stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak lasts.
GET IN THE FRONT OF THE LINE
Accordingly, if you are a landlord and have tenants who owe you money, it is your best interest to continue to file Evictions as soon as you can. The Executive Order has severely compromised a landlord’s ability to regain possession of the rental unit from a non-paying tenant in a timely fashion. Beyond the 90 day hold on lockouts, there is a growing backlog of existing eviction cases in New Jersey. Landlord-Tenant Courts are temporarily suspended throughout New Jersey due to the COVID-19 outbreak, meaning that as of today there is already a growing backlog of rent Evictions. There is no telling exactly how long this shutdown will last, but needless to say, the longer it lasts, the longer it will take for Evictions to be heard by the Courts. As it stands, it may be months from now before an Eviction hearing can even be scheduled, depending on how long the Coronavirus pandemic lasts. This backlog will be exacerbated by additional tenants not paying rent as this shutdown continues. This inevitably will lead to an unusually high volume of Evictions eventually being filed. Accordingly, it is imperative to protect the limited amount of rights landlords have at this time. If you are a landlord and have tenants who owe you for back rent, it remains in your best interests to file Evictions now rather than to wait, to “keep your place in line.”
DON’T BE MEAN
This does not mean landlords shouldn’t try to work with tenants experiencing financial difficulties. By all means, compassion is of paramount importance at this time. However, the only way such arrangements can be legally enforceable in terms of regaining possession is for an Eviction to be filed first. Thereinafter, a landlord can take a Judgment for Possession but forgo locking out the tenant provided that he complies with his payment obligations. This creates a win-win scenario: the tenant has the opportunity to catch up the rent and stay in possession, and the landlord has the opportunity to have the rental money caught up, or lawfully remove the tenant if this does not happen.
Again, filing the Eviction does not prevent a landlord from working out a deal with a tenant to let him stay; much the opposite, it makes the deal stronger, more enforceable. However, if landlords do not file rent Evictions during this time, they run the risk that a tenant may go months and months without paying rent. In our experience, the more rental arrears a tenant accrues, the less likely it is that he will pay any of it back and remain in possession. This may leave a landlord out thousands upon thousands in back rent, money which she likely will never see.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
If you are like most landlords, you are not independently wealthy, and rely on those rental payments to pay your mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Without a doubt, a loss of rent could be financially catastrophic. Filing evictions now, even with the uncertainty that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought, permits you to take as much control of the situation as you possibly can, protect your rights, and attempt to minimize the financial losses associated with the COVID-19. Much like every other facet of society right now, New Jersey landlords are facing significant uncertainty in the time ahead. If you have questions or concerns with how to proceed in any given matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (609) 267 – 1301 to set up a consultation. We are happy to discuss any issues which you may be facing. Be safe.