SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
ASSEMBLY, No. 5758
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 22, 2021
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 5758 (2R).
This bill provides funding for the establishment of experiential housing advocacy programs that provide free legal services to low- and moderate-income tenants who are in need of housing assistance.
Under the bill, the Legislature is directed to annually appropriate monies for the Seton Hall Law School, the Rutgers Law School, Camden location, and the Rutgers Law School, Newark location, to establish the experiential housing advocacy programs. The bill requires the programs to be implemented according to guidance issued by each law school, in consultation with any other law schools that establish the program, subject to the limitations of the bill.
Specifically, the experiential housing advocacy program would provide the following services, free of charge, to low- and moderate-income tenants: (1) legal counsel and representation in landlord-tenant-related litigation, including, but not limited to, eviction proceedings and actions for unpaid rent; (2) assistance applying for benefits under any State or federally funded rental assistance program, homeownership assistance program, or any other program providing financial assistance to tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; (3) legal counsel and assistance related to pre- and post-litigation negotiations with landlords; and (4) any other services that the law school may deem appropriate to assist low- and moderate-income tenants.
The bill provides that the experiential housing advocacy programs may assist low- and moderate-income tenants residing throughout the State. However, each program would be required to prioritize qualifying tenants who are in need of housing assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs may also partner with legal services organizations and community-based organizations to conduct community outreach.
If a law school elects to implement the experiential housing advocacy program, the school would be required to designate a licensed attorney in good standing, with experience in landlord-tenant law and civil litigation matters, to supervise the program. Thereafter, the bill permits the law school to hire such additional staff as may be needed to support the program, including one or more licensed attorneys with experience in landlord-tenant law and civil litigation matters, and one or more recent law school graduates.
Additionally, the bill allows the schools to designate one or more legal services organizations through which the programs may be implemented. If a law school elects to implement the program through a designated legal services organization, then subject to the availability of funds, the school would be required to provide subgrants to the organization to defray the costs of the program. However, when implementing the program, the legal services organization would be required to allow all students selected by the law school to participate in the program.
Under the bill, the Seton Hall Law School would be required to submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature detailing the operations of each experiential housing advocacy program established pursuant to the bill. At a minimum, this report would indicate the number of tenants who received assistance through each program and the service provided to each tenant.
The bill also appropriates a total of $2 million from the General Fund to support the operations of the clinical program. The Seton Hall Law School, the Rutgers Law School, Camden location, and the Rutgers Law School, Newark location, will each receive $575,000. The remaining $275,000 is appropriated to the Seton Hall Law School to support the preparation of training materials and the training of law students and graduates selected to participate in the program. If either law school does not establish the program, then the monies appropriated for that school would be transferred to the other participating schools in equal amounts.
As reported, this bill is identical to Senate Bill No. 3842 (1R), as also reported by the committee.
Fiscal information is currently unavailable for this bill.