In Brief

Courts begin to hear long-stalled eviction cases

By: - September 2, 2021 7:00 am

New Jersey courts have started to hear the thousands of eviction cases that had been stalled because of the pandemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New Jersey’s eviction moratorium for middle-income renters ended Wednesday, with courts starting to hear some of the 83,800-plus residential eviction cases landlords have filed since the start of the pandemic.

But there is no tidal wave of people losing their homes and getting booted onto the street. Yet.

Instead, the process started with settlement conferences. Courts brought landlords, tenants, and attorneys into the same room — or rather, Zoom breakout rooms, because courts are still mostly virtual — to try to come to an agreement about back rent owed. Without consensus, those cases will go before judges for trial in coming days and weeks.

So despite the moratorium lifting, the action in many courts Wednesday still centered on commercial eviction cases, which resumed in June.

Affordable housing advocates had lobbied hard for both federal and state extensions of the residential eviction moratorium, saying many people continue struggling during the ongoing pandemic.

But the federal moratorium ended last week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the CDC exceeded its authority when it tried to extend the ban until Oct. 3. New Jersey’s eviction moratorium ended Wednesday for renters making at least 80% of their area’s median income. The state’s poorest residents will be protected through the end of the year.

Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, applauded state leaders for ensuring low-income renters will be protected until Dec. 31. But New Jersey has such a shortage of affordable housing that people of any income who get evicted have nowhere to go, she said.

“Evictions are not good for anybody, but they’re especially bad for young families and children,” she said. “What we’re going through is hopefully a once-in-forever pandemic. We should be doing everything we can do to keep everyone safely housed. If that means corporate landlords don’t make the same money they made in 2019, that’s what shared sacrifice is.”

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.