From the Star Ledger:
The first mandatory settlement conferences in more than 56,000 pending landlord-tenant cases will begin next week, nearly a year-and-a-half since a statewide eviction moratoriumbegan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
If the landlord does not appear at the settlement conference, the case will be dismissed. If the tenant does not appear and the landlord establishes entitlement to relief, the court will enter a default judgment.
If no settlement is reached after both parties attend the settlement conference, a trial will be set for a date after Aug. 31. Even as cases begin to be heard, residential evictions will still not occur until the eviction moratorium ends — which could be Dec. 31.
But that date still hangs in the balance, pending a bill that was passed by the state Legislature and has yet to be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill (S3691) would move up the end date of the moratorium to Aug. 31 for renters if their annual household income is above 80% of their county’s median income. Those who make less than that would remain under the moratorium until Dec. 31.
“The result could be that someone settles a case today and agrees to vacate, and then all of the sudden the legislation is passed and they have all these protections and they arguably couldn’t be put out,” said Lawrence Sindoni, an attorney with Northeast New Jersey Legal Services, of the legislation that hasn’t been signed yet. “So that’s certainly going to raise issues.”
The bill would also give millions in rental assistance. Renters who file for the financial help would have their eviction cases dismissed for nonpayment of rent or failure to pay rent increases between March 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.