NEW JERSEY COVID-19 EVICTION CASES WILL BECOME CONFIDENTIAL
On Wednesday June 30, 2021, the New Jersey Legislature passed NJ S.B. 3713 / A.B. 4463 (2021) (the “Act”), and it now awaits the signature of Governor Murphy. Under this act, certain New Jersey eviction court records during the pandemic must be kept confidential. The goal is to reduce renters that suffered hardship during the pandemic, and who otherwise have a good rental history, from finding new housing.
The Act requires that records of certain actions cannot be made public. Specifically, the Act applies to eviction actions initiated for nonpayment of rent or habitual late payments of rent occurring between March 9, 2020, and sixty (60) days after the end of the current Public Health Emergency. N.J. Exec. Order No. 244 (2021) ended the Public Health Emergency as of June 4, 2021, meaning that the Act would apply to cases involving nonpayment of rent occurring between March 9, 2020, and August 3, 2021.
Importantly, though, N.J. Exec. Order No. 244 (2021) only ended the Public Health Emergency, not the State of Emergency. The current eviction moratorium was set to expire sixty (60) days after the end of both the Public Health Emergency and the State of Emergency. Moreover, pursuant to recently passed NJ S.B. 3691 / A.B. 5685 (2021), the moratorium on evictions ends for most tenants after August 31, 2021, and for all tenants after December 31, 2021. So, while the text of the Act only refers to those eviction actions regarding nonpayment of rent occurring between March 9, 2020, and August 3, 2021—it is unclear if the intent of the Act may have been to extend this confidentiality period to August 31, 2021, December 31, 2021, or perhaps even later.
It is advised that any New Jersey public entity that maintains a written or automated record or file of records of these actions during this time frame to take appropriate actions to ensure that these records are kept confidential and unavailable to the public.
Furthermore, if signed into law, the following is now prohibited:
- When evaluating a tenant, a landlord cannot consider a nonpayment eviction action filed anytime during the period covered by the Act; and
- A person, tenant screening service, or other entity cannot knowingly provide court filing information or information contained in court proceeding related to a nonpayment eviction action during the period covered by the Act, to a landlord or other entity involved in the rental of a dwelling unit.
If a person knowingly violates either of the above, they will be liable for a penalty of no less than $1,000.00 for the first (1st) offense, and no less than $5,000.00 for the second (2nd) offense and each subsequent offense.
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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