ASSEMBLY, No. 4617
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
Assemblyman JOHN J. BURZICHELLI
District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem)
Assemblyman BENJIE E. WIMBERLY
District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)
Assemblywoman ANNETTE CHAPARRO
District 33 (Hudson)
Assemblymen Danielsen, Spearman, Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson, Assemblyman Clifton and Assemblywoman Pintor Marin
Addresses certain landlord expenses in response to COVID-19 pandemic; appropriates $300 million.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
As reported by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on December 14, 2020, with amendments.
An Act addressing certain landlord expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and making an appropriation.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to control it have resulted in widespread unemployment and lost income to large numbers of New Jersey tenants;
b. As of June of 2020, New Jersey’s unemployment rate exceeds 16 percent;
c. Unemployment and loss of income have rendered many tenants unable to pay rent in whole or in part, placing them at potential risk of eviction following the conclusion of the eviction moratorium adopted through Executive Order No. 106 of 2020;
d. Although Executive Order No. 106, and other tenant protections established during the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be preventing many evictions that might otherwise occur, the tenant protections, combined with the underlying economic circumstances of the pandemic, could result in a widespread loss of rental income, placing landlords in a financially-vulnerable situation;
e. If not addressed, sustained loss of rental income could lead many landlords to defer repairs, reduce maintenance, and potentially abandon their properties, all of which could adversely-effect landlords, families living in rental properties, as well as many neighborhoods throughout the State; and
f. It is, therefore, necessary and in the public interest for the Legislature to prevent evictions as well as property deterioration and abandonment, arising from the temporary loss of tenant and landlord income during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, by enacting legislation to subsidize certain landlord expenses incurred during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. As used in this act:
“Assistance” means compensation for unpaid rent, provided by the program established pursuant to section 3 of this act 2, that shall compensate a landlord for the housing costs of the units of all of the landlord’s residential tenants in the building or development for which the assistance has been requested during the period that is both within the assistance period and prior to submission of the program application2.
“Assistance period” means the period beginning April 1, 2020 and ending 1[on the first day of the seventh month next following] two months following the end of1 the public health emergency declared pursuant to Executive Order No. 103 of 2020.
“Commissioner” means the Commissioner of Community Affairs.
“Department” means the Department of Community Affairs.
“Household income” means the gross income of a tenant household for calendar year 2019, or for January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 multiplied by two, whichever is lower.
“Housing costs” means mortgage principal and interest payments, property taxes, homeowner and private mortgage insurance, condominium or common interest community fees, and reasonable maintenance costs, as applicable, paid by a landlord for the landlord’s residential rental units 1, and anticipated maintenance cost increases, applicable to landlords with tenants who have applied security deposit funds against rent pursuant to Executive Order 128 of 20201.
“Program” means the Landlord Emergency Compensation Program established by section 3 of this act.
“Program application” means an application for assistance through the program.
3. a. There is established in the Department of Community Affairs the “Landlord Emergency Compensation Program,” to provide assistance to a landlord to compensate for the portions of unpaid rent, due during the assistance period, that the landlord’s residential tenants have owed the landlord, but have not paid, to the extent that this compensation is necessary to allow the landlord to cover the landlord’s housing costs. The program shall not provide assistance to the landlord for:
(1) housing costs that, prior to March 9, 2020, the landlord had anticipated covering through funding sources other than rent payments; or
(2) housing costs for which the landlord has obtained compensation, or has an outstanding application for compensation, through a different program that, as determined by the commissioner, preempts the landlord from eligibility for assistance payments 1, including, but not limited to, funding from the Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program established by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
b. The commissioner shall limit eligibility for assistance payments to a landlord that:
(1) as of 2[March 9, 2020] the date of submission of a program application2 , is in substantial compliance with the requirements of: the “State Uniform Construction Code Act,” P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.); the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,” P.L.1967, c.76 (C.55:13A-1 et seq.); and the State housing code, adopted by the Department of Community Affairs pursuant to P.L. 1966, c. 168 (C.2A:42-74 et seq.);
(2) as of March 9, 2020, is in substantial compliance with property tax and other tax payment responsibilities; and
(3) has no pending criminal charges1.
1[b.] c.1 The program shall begin accepting applications as soon as possible following enactment of this act. If a landlord applies for assistance prior to the conclusion of the assistance period, and the landlord’s tenants miss one or more rent payments after submission of the program application, then the landlord may apply to the department for one or more additional assistance payments on a quarterly basis through the conclusion of the assistance period. The department may adjust this application schedule as deemed appropriate by the commissioner.
1[c.] d.1 The department may prioritize program application approval based on 1the1 financial need 1of the landlord,1 as determined appropriate by the commissioner. 1A portion of assistance funding shall be reserved for landlords who own and rent out no more than two housing units.1
1[d.] e.1 The department shall prepare all application forms, application guidelines, and informational materials necessary for landlords to complete an application, and shall post materials on its website at least 30 days prior to the date on which applications shall be accepted.
4. a. A program application shall state the total amount of rent due from the landlord’s residential tenants established in the corresponding leases, the amount paid by the tenants or third parties, if any, the amount unpaid, the landlord’s housing costs, 1the amount of security deposit funding that the landlord’s tenants have applied against rent pursuant to Executive Order 128 of 2020,1 and any other information required by the department 1for determining financial need1.
b. An application shall be accompanied by a form completed by the tenant of 1[the] each of the landlord’s1 rental 1[unit] units for which the landlord is seeking assistance1 endorsing the application, which shall include (1) the number of occupants of the unit, (2) a sworn statement of the tenant household’s income, and (3) any additional information required by the department.
c. If the tenant of a rental
unit is unwilling to complete the form required in subsection b. of this
section notwithstanding diligent effort by the landlord, the landlord may
attach to the application a certification in such form as shall be determined
by the department setting forth (1) the landlord’s efforts to obtain tenant
endorsement; (2) the household income of the tenant, to the best of the
landlord’s knowledge; (3) the number of occupants in the rental unit, and (4)
any additional information required by the department.
5. a. An assistance payment, once accepted by a landlord, shall be a full settlement of rent due for 2all of2 the landlord’s residential tenants 2[1for which the landlord is receiving assistance1] in the building or development for which the assistance has been requested2 during the period that is both within the assistance period and prior to submission of the program application. By accepting an assistance payment, the landlord shall also waive any late or other fees charged to residential tenants as a result of the nonpayment of rent during the period that is both within the assistance period and prior to submission of the program application. The acceptance of the assistance payment shall constitute a settlement of these costs even though they may not be fully compensated through the assistance payment.
b. 1Upon the provision of an assistance payment, the commissioner shall notify the landlord’s tenants of the protections provided to them as a consequence of the landlord’s receipt of assistance.
c.1 A landlord shall not accept a delinquent rent payment from a residential tenant if the rent payment has been covered by an assistance payment.
1[c.] d.1 A landlord receiving assistance or awaiting the department’s response to a program application, shall not initiate an eviction proceeding, or complete a previously-initiated eviction proceeding, for any unpaid rent balances, or late or other fees, owed by a residential tenant for rent due during the period that is both within the assistance period and prior to submission of the program application. 2This subsection shall protect such tenants from an eviction action for nonpayment or habitually late payment of rent during this period.2
1[d.] e.1 A landlord initiating an eviction action shall provide documentation on a form to be prepared and adopted by the Administrative Director of the Courts that the landlord is not prohibited from initiating the action by any provision of this act.
16. a. The Department of Community Affairs shall, as soon as practicable following the enactment of this act, prepare and make available, on its Internet website, information for landlords on (1) when assistance applications shall be available, (2) the necessary steps for application submission, (3) how to obtain help in application completion, and (4) other matters related to assistance applications deemed necessary by the commissioner. This information shall be made available in English, Spanish, and any other languages determined necessary by the commissioner.
b. The department shall engage in a substantial effort to enhance awareness among the State’s landlords of the ability to apply for assistance. Once assistance applications are made available, the department shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a toll-free telephone hotline available, at a minimum, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. through which a landlord may ask questions and obtain help in application completion. The department shall maintain the telephone hotline for the entire period that the department continues to accept assistance applications.1
1[6.] 7.1 If a landlord has submitted a program application to the department, but has not yet obtained an assistance payment, or a denial of an assistance payment, the landlord may assert an affirmative defense to a foreclosure action initiated against any residential rental property owned by the landlord. This section shall exclusively apply to a landlord whose principal residence is in the State and who, together with immediate family members, partners, or other related entities, owns no more than 50 rental units in the State.
1[7.] 8.1 An intentional misrepresentation by a landlord of any information to obtain an assistance payment shall constitute a crime of the fourth degree 1in addition to other applicable penalties1.
1[8.] 9.1 There is appropriated from funds provided to the State by the United States government under the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” Pub. Law 116-136, to the Department of Community Affairs the sum of $300,000,000 for assistance under this program, of which no more than $1,500,000 may be used by the department to defray the administrative costs of the program. If $300,000,000 is not available through the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” Pub. Law 116-136, then the remainder of this amount shall be appropriated from other federal funding authorized for coronavirus relief as it becomes available. 2If federal funding is not available to satisfy the full amount of this appropriation, then the Commissioner of Community Affairs may notify the State Treasurer and the Joint Budget Oversight Committee of the Legislature of the deficiency and may request that the Legislature appropriate a portion of the remainder from the General Fund, or other available State funding sources, for the purposes of the program.2
1[9.] 10.1 This act shall take effect immediately.