RENT FREEZING IN NORTH JERSEY AND BEYOND
We hope you are all managing and staying healthy throughout these difficult times. Governments across the country are taking action to help keep tenants in their homes and stop evictions. For example, evictions are not happening right now in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. However, some individual cities are attempting to take more aggressive action to keep renters in apartments: enacting rent freezes.
LANDLORDS, TENANTS, AND COPING WITH COVID 19
We hope that you, your friends, family, and loved ones are all staying safe and healthy, especially under these difficult circumstances. As a result of the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, everything has begun to change. While we all hope that things will return to normal soon, no one can be certain when this crisis will end. To help cope with all this uncertainty, we at Griffin Alexander, P.C., are prepared to help our clients develop plans to work with their tenants while society adapts.
THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC AND ITS IMPENDING EFFECT ON LANDLORDS
By now, most states have instituted mandatory rules requiring non-essential people to work from home. In many cases, some workers have been afforded this convenience, however there are many that have lost employment. In all cases, one major concern has been the ability of many individuals and families to continuing making rent payments to landlords.
Pennsylvania Covid-19 Update Landlord/Tenant Court
In response to Covid-19, on March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Western District has issued an Order directing that all Pennsylvania courts are closed to the public from March 20, 2020 through at least April 3, 2020. With regard to landlord/tenant court matters, it was directed that during the period encompassed by the Order or the judicial emergency, whichever is longer, “no officer, official, or other person employed by the Pennsylvania Judiciary at any level shall effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence based upon the failure to make a rent, loan, or other similar payment. Nothing herein is intended to preclude requests for orders of possession resulting from judgments entered in landlord-tenant actions to be filed by mail. However, any execution on an order of possession is stayed to a date on or after April 3, 2020, subject to further orders.” Further, all time calculations for purposes of time computation relevant to court cases or other judicial business, as well as time deadlines, are also suspended through April 3, 2020.
Landlord/Tenant Legislation: COVID-19 Response
The Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee advanced a number of bills to address the COVID-19 crisis. Senator Joe Cryan proposed a bill to the Assembly, A-3859/S-2276, which introduced a moratorium on evictions of tenants. The Senate held a Judiciary Committee Meeting and a Senate Voting Session today to vote on these proposed this bill. The Senate made a unanimous decision to pass the bill into law. The new law, in summary, states the following:
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS AND THE CORONAVIRUS
As a result of COVID-19, a.k.a. the “Coronavirus,” over the past few days and weeks, we have seen states and the Federal government taking more and more action to curb its spread. As infection and death rates increase, governments encourage quarantine measures, businesses increasingly permit employees to work from home, and more-and-more people choose to self-quarantine, community associations must plan for how they are going to combat the virus.
HUD REGULATIONS PREEMPT NJ ANTI-EVICTION ACT
In a recent Superior Court decision, the New Jersey court in Summit Plaza Assocs. v. Kolta explored the parameters of the federal preemption doctrine in the context of a landlord/tenant action. The Court held that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations expressly preempt state law and that preemption is warranted as the regulations served similar federal and state interests in maintaining the availability of low-income housing. HUD’s Section 8 program was designed to enable the government to assist low income families with their rent by paying a subsidy directly to the landlord.
BILL PASSED IN NEW JERSEY REGARDING WHEN TENANTS ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE PAYMENTS AFTER EVICTION AND/OR LOCKOUT
A new bill titled NJ S3124, was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on January 13, 2020. This bill requires landlords to allow tenants to pay rent up to three business days after an eviction order or lockout is executed and requires landlords to accept rent payments by any means.
New Legislation Regarding Tenants Payments to Landlords in New Jersey
The new bill is titled S1493 Sca (1R) and it was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday, January 13, 2020. Generally, the new legislation aims at landlords who require renters to agree to automatic monthly debit payments as a condition of entering a new lease or renewing a lease. The new legislation prohibits landlords from requiring residential tenants to pay rent and other related charges through electronic funds transfer and it requires landlords to provide receipts for cash payments.
New York Housing Right to Counsel
New York City has established a city-funded right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings. The right to counsel law, Local Law 136 of 2017, amended the New York City Administrative Code § 26-1301 et seq. The law now requires New York City to build up the capacity of the City’s nonprofit legal services organizations over five years so that by 2022, the nonprofit organizations will be able to provide attorney representation for every low-income household in New York City that is subject to eviction in Housing Court.