New Jersey judges have their hands full with eviction cases as filings ramp up following pandemic moratoriums. The predicted eviction tsunami, however, still hasn’t materialized — and perhaps never will.
In the first five months of the year, landlords have filed 40,600 eviction cases in the state, NorthJersey.com reported, citing data from the Administration Office of the Courts.
Those numbers are not particularly close to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, for instance, landlords filed 60,500 cases in the same five-month period. Filings have more than doubled from the 18,850 for January through May last year, but that number was depressed because a federal eviction moratorium was still in place.
Immediately after a state moratorium ended in January, concerns rose about judges’ inconsistent handling of eviction cases across the state.
People also struggled to get court dates and technology problems allowed some landlords to win default judgments because a tenant’s call was dropped. Attorneys have also had difficulty getting important documents, an unintended consequence of a law meant to stop landlords from blacklisting tenants.
Some of those problems remain. People are still having trouble getting court dates, as there is a backlog of nearly 44,000 cases across the state. That has drawn out cases, frustrating tenants and landlords alike.
The backlog is not equal across the state. In Essex County, there are nearly 19,000 backlogged cases. In Hunterdon County, where rentals are rarer, there are fewer than 100.
Rental assistance, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly more difficult for New Jersey renters to come by. Some $500 million earmarked for rent relief by the Eviction Prevention Program has been exhausted. Most of New Jersey’s other programs are nearing full allocation as well.
Approximately 122,000 people who have applied for rental assistance remain on a waiting list and funds might run out before some applicants get any. An attorney with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice is encouraging renters not to give up, though.
“There is still some rental assistance out there, so the time is now to look for resources,” Allison Nolan told NorthJersey.com. “Tenants should know cases are moving and they should not wait until trial to seek help.”
[NorthJersey.com] — Holden Walter-Warner