Lawmakers sign off on $750 million for rental, utility payment help for New Jersey residents

(The Center Square) – State lawmakers have approved legislation to allocate $750 million to help New Jerseyans pay their rent and utility bills and create a new office to help tenants find assistance programs.

Senate Bill 3691/Assembly Bill 5685 phases out the eviction moratorium and provides tenant protections, proponents say. It appropriates $500 million for rental assistance and $250 million in utility payment help.

The measure ends the eviction moratorium on Aug. 31. It also provides additional eviction protections for low- and moderate-income families until Dec. 31.

The bill converts rental debt accrued from March 2020 through August 2021 into civil debt. The measure also includes credit and eviction record protections, while the new Office of Eviction Prevention will help tenants find and apply for rental assistance programs.

“Converting the rental debt to civil debt was a critical component of this bill because it severely limits the potential for an eviction tsunami,” state Sen. Brian Stack, D-Union City, said in a news release.

“Under this legislation, that debt can never be the basis for an eviction,” Stack added. “Then the rental assistance helps tenants pay past, current, and future rent, which will help tenants dig out of a financial hole, and it will also provide the rent revenue landlords need to operate and maintain their properties.”

According to Stack, coupled with nearly $600 million the state received in federal rental assistance, New Jersey officials have allocated $1.1 billion toward the cause.

“This landmark legislation is a comprehensive approach toward ending the eviction moratorium, while providing tenant protections and additional rental assistance,” Real Estate NJ quoted New Jersey Apartment Association Executive Director David Brogan as saying. “This will ensure that as we transition out of the pandemic, landlords are provided with certainty regarding when the eviction moratorium will end, along with the rent revenue they need to sustain their businesses.”

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