Twenty-five housing and racial justice advocates have sent a letter to the Administrative Director of the New Jersey Courts outlining the additional steps necessary to ensure that landlords comply with the federal CARES Act when filing eviction actions.

The CARES Act restricts when covered landlords may file an eviction action for nonpayment of rent or charge fees related to nonpayment of rent, and covered landlords must give tenants 30 days’ notice before filing an eviction action. The Act applies to landlords who hold a federally backed mortgage or who manage federally subsidized housing, including public housing, Section 8 housing, and certain housing programs for seniors, people with disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS, and people at risk of homelessness.

While the New Jersey courts recently took the important initial step of requiring landlords who are not covered by the CARES Act to file a certification to this effect, the courts have not yet taken any action to ensure compliance by the hundreds of landlords who are covered by the Act. The coalition urges the courts to require covered landlords to file an additional certification. In accordance with governing federal law, this certification would require covered landlords to attest:

  1. That they gave the tenant thirty days’ written notice before filing the eviction action;
  2. That the complaint does not demand payment of fees (such as late fees or attorney’s fees) related to the tenant’s nonpayment of rent between March 27 and July 24, 2020, or during any other period when the Act prohibits eviction filings; and
  3. That they are not currently subject to a moratorium on filing the eviction action, which remains in effect for multifamily landlords whose mortgage payments are suspended under a forbearance agreement with a federal lender.

The letter cites extensively to certifications issued by the high courts of other states and recommends that New Jersey follow the examples set by the courts of Maryland and Kentucky in particular. 

The full text of the coalition’s letter may be found here.

The members of the coalition and signatories to the letter include Catherine Weiss, Partner and Chair, Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest; Frank Argote-Freyre, Director, Latino Coalition of New Jersey; Staci Berger, President and CEO, Housing & Community Development Network of NJ; Lori Outzs Borgen, Director, Center for Social Justice, Seton Hall University School of Law; Alfred Donnarumma, Assistant Director and Director of Litigation, Central Jersey Legal Services, Inc.; Christian Estevez, President, Latino Action Network; Jill Friedman, Associate Dean, Pro Bono and Public Interest, Rutgers Law School; Yvette Gibbons, Executive Director, Essex County Legal Aid Association; Adam Gordon, Executive Director, Fair Share Housing Center; Norrinda Brown Hayat, Associate Professor of Clinical Law, Rutgers Law School - Newark; Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; Lauren Herman, Supervising Attorney, Make the Road New Jersey; Cathy Keenan, Executive Director, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice; Erika Kerber, Associate Executive Director, Community Health Law Project; Steve Leder, Former  Managing Attorney, Community Health Law Project; Jeanne LoCicero, Legal Director, ACLU of New Jersey; Gladys Moriarty, Senior Attorney, Essex County Legal Aid Association; Maria Lopez-Nunez, Deputy Director for Organizing and Advocacy, Ironbound Community Corporation; Mike McNeil, State Housing Chairman, NAACP New Jersey State Conference; Ayesha Mughal, Co-chair, Central Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (DSA); Stacy Noonan, Managing Attorney, Mercer and Burlington Counties, Community Health Law Project; Connie Pascale, Board Member, STEPS (Solutions to End Poverty Soon); Matt Shapiro, President, New Jersey Tenants Organization; Meena Song, Managing Attorney, Union and Hudson Counties, Community Health Law Project; and Jeff Wild, President, NJ Coalition to End Homelessness.

Many of these signatories sent a similar letter to the Administrative Director of the New Jersey Courts in June requesting that the courts enforce compliance with federal law in all eviction filings and ensure constitutional due process in court-ordered mediation and settlement conferences in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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