NEW JERSEY — Seeking to extend COVID-19 relief to New Jersey landlords, who have had to reckon with a moratorium on evictions since April, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a $25 million grant program Friday.

According to state officials, one of three renters in the Garden State lives in 3 to10 unit properties, which will specifically be eligible for the Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program under the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.   

“We have gone a step further and reserved one-third of the program funding for landlords who are registered in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs RIMS [Registration Inspection Management System] database as individual or family owners,” Lt. Gov. Sheilah Oliver said during the governor’s coronavirus press briefing in Trenton this afternoon. “While the small landlord emergency grant program reimburses the landlords, the program is also a critical lifeline to working families and retirees who rent their homes.”

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The program is being made possible through CARES Act funds, which Congress approved on the country’s road to recovery.   

“Many of these smaller buildings aren’t just personal investments for their owners, they’re also investments in neighborhoods and communities,” said Murphy. “Ensuring that responsible landlords are able to protect these investments and provide quality housing is of great importance.”

Almost 1.5 million residents in the Garden State have filed for unemployment, leading to dire straits not only for families struggling to support themselves financially but landlords unable to collect payments during an eviction moratorium — which Murphy reminded the public remains “firmly in place.”

Murphy said the introduction of the relief is chiefly being done for two reasons.

Firstly, he said that since the majority of low and moderate-income renters live in buildings between 3 to 10 units, helping them sustain by extension helps their communities.

“Second, through this assistance, we can help directly support COVID impacted renters by having outstanding back rent forgiven…whether in part or in full,” Murphy added.

Evictions won’t be possible until two months following the current public health emergency, he noted.

Oliver said steps will be taken to guarantee landlords are not simultaneously taking advantage of the program and demanding payment from their tenants. 

“A landlord just cannot fill out his name and his address and say, ‘My tenants haven't paid me.’ There's going to have to be proof of that. And in some instances, we will affirm that with the tenant to make sure that there's no comeback,” she said.

Those interested in applying for the program must do so between 9 a.m. on Aug. 19 to 1 p.m. on Aug. 26. More information can be found here.

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