Eviction problems hit NJ, NY after moratoriums lift

Backlog of tenant-landlord cases opens to confusion among courts

Landlords, tenants and court officials in New Jersey and New York are wading through the aftermath of the states’ eviction moratoriums, which lifted this month.

The backlog of landlord-tenant cases opened up a slew of issues as New Jersey courts weighed new guidelines and procedures after the state’s moratorium expired Jan. 1, NorthJersey.com reported.

The first 12 days of the month brought 2,100 eviction filings, slightly ahead of the pace last year, when the monthly average was 3,800, though still well below 2019’s pace of 12,600 per month.

Despite the smaller number of cases, representatives for landlords and tenants still face a bevy of potential problems. The outlet reported that a key concern is inconsistent handling of cases by judges across the state.

“It’s the luck of the draw of which judge you get,” said attorney Amy Albert of the Waterfront Project, representing low-income renters in Hudson County.

According to NorthJersey.com, other issues include renters and landlords struggling to get court dates, as well as technology problems that have seen some landlords win default judgments because a tenant’s call was dropped. Having a lawyer helps in that situation, but not every tenant can afford one.

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There is also a transparency issue unintentionally created by a recent law meant to prevent landlords from blacklisting tenants: It has made it harder for attorneys to get important court documents. A bill designed to clean up the law failed to pass.

Problems aren’t limited to New Jersey. In upstate New York, tenants and landlords alike are also facing frustration.

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The Times Union reported that dozens arrived at Schenectady City Court Tuesday, ready to start proceedings after the state’s eviction moratorium expired over the holiday weekend. Those who showed up were directed from one window to the next, then handed a vague letter regarding future court dates.

Officials at the court had 289 cases awaiting scheduling as of mid-morning Tuesday. New court dates won’t be booked until March or April for most, which could provide tenants and landlords more time to get on the same page. It could also mean more months of free housing for tenants and frustration for landlords.

There were 648 eviction filings in Schenectady in 2021, down from 2,226 in 2019, according to the Times Union. An official with the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority said residents aren’t likely to be removed before the end of June as rent relief hangs in the balance.

[NorthJersey.com] — Holden Walter-Warner

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