Despite an executive order earlier this year preventing landlords from evicting tenants who couldn't pay rent because of pandemic-related layoffs or sickness, thousands of eviction notices have already been filed and there is growing concern a mass wave of evictions will ensue once the health emergency is declared over.

While the current rent freeze is benefitting tenants that have lost their jobs, attorney Derek Reed, a partner with the firm Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin Plaza & Reed, who has represented the Property Owners Association of New Jersey, said this has been a disaster for many landlords, especially smaller ones who are not able to pay property tax bills and mortgages.

“If you rent out a two-family home or a three-family home and you live in that home as well, if one tenant stops paying rent that’s 100% loss of your rental income,” said Reed.

He pointed out in many instances the rent collected from tenants will be used by these smaller landlords to put food on their own table or to pay required monthly bills.

“The fact that they have to house someone now, really since March without paying rent is creating a critical situation," he said.

Landlords of larger rental buildings, in addition to paying taxes are also responsible for maintenance of the property, including sanitizing costs, as well as insurance, and they may also have to cover utilities like heat.

“All of those costs continue to come due and yet the residents can continue to live there without paying rent during this pandemic,” Reed said. “It’s just very unfair and inequitable.”

Reed said what’s needed is direct rental assistance, similar to a $100 million package put forth by state Senate President Steve Sweeney and administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

“But it’s woefully inadequate,” he said. “There needs to be much more robust assistance to get residents out from under the cloud of this rent that becomes due every single month.”

He also said that an influx of capital for multi-family housing industry in New Jersey is crucial to keep the whole industry afloat in order “to avoid mass bankruptcies and avoid a huge shift in property taxes to homeowners.”

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