While Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order puts a moratorium on evictions during the current state of emergency, some tenants are seeing landlords using loopholes to try to get around the ban. David Meyers is a single father of two in Belmar, laid off from his bartender job.
“I got a letter taped to my door yesterday after missing one month of rent. He’s telling me that I have to leave by June 1. And the reason given is ‘owner of dwelling wants to personally occupy the unit,'” he said.
The governor’s executive order appears to protect Meyers from eviction. But the landlord can still take him to court, which could cost Meyers thousands of dollars.
In Newark, Freedom Bremner says many fellow tenants are still waiting for unemployment and stimulus checks. But they’re still not exempted from late fees and loss of their assigned parking spaces. Efforts to negotiate with the building’s owners have been fruitless, says Bremner, who’s the president of his tenant’s association.
“We asked our owners, could they possibly present some sort of plan or option for people to pay partial rent or to be able to pay rent late without excessive fees or something,” Bremmer said. “We didn’t even get a response. We wrote twice. They didn’t even respond to us.”
But it’s not just tenants feeling the pressure. Smaller landlords are taking a hit, too. Marion Roger – recently furloughed from her job in tourism and hospitality – used her entire savings and inheritance to buy a condo in Jersey City, which she rents out for slightly less than market rate. So far, her tenant has made his payments mostly on time, but she’s afraid what will happen if the tenant, a contractor, loses his job.
“I’m very nervous that he’s going to say, ‘Look, work’s dried up. I have a wife. Two kids, elderly parents, I can’t make my rent,'” Roger said. “I guess you start imagining the worst in people, and that’s not who I am. That’s the hardest part of this, is seeing myself becoming suspicious or imagining the worst in people, because that’s not how I like to do things.”
Last week, the governor issued another executive order which allows tenants to use their security deposits to pay their rent. That’s got Sen. Mike Doherty up in arms.
“You cannot have the government interfere and go back in time and change the terms of a contract. That’s the problem I have with Gov. Murphy, that he doesn’t think about the Constitution. He even said that recently in an interview. He said, well when I shut down churches and allowed liquor stores to continue to remain open and lottery tickets to continue to be sold, he said, I didn’t think about the Constitution. He said it’s above my pay grade. Are you kidding me,” said Doherty.
Murphy this week — by executive order — allowed municipalities to extend the grace period for property tax payments until June 1, giving property owners and landlords a few extra weeks to pay their taxes without extra interest or penalties, a small step in a continuing effort to strike a balance between the needs of those seeking a roof over their heads, and those who own the roofs.