Bill to ease pain of New Jersey renters passes Assembly despite partisan divide

New Jersey Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber said Thursday that a bill to allow renters to make payment arrangements on missed payments is the unconstitutional and would hurt taxpayers.

The bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, Benjie Wimberly, Angela McKnight and Shanique Speight also would allow homeowners to put any missed mortgage payments at the end of their loan. The homeowners or renters would have to show proof they have been affected by the pandemic through job loss, a reduction In hours, a business closure or costs for funerals or child care.

Landlords would have to give each tenant a copy of the tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities and use a template created by the Department of Community Affairs to work out a payment arrangement 10 days after the state’s health emergency ends. Landlords would face fines for violating the bill.

Webber said the bill would keep landlords from collecting rent, which would prompt them to make a tax appeal due to lack of income. If that appeal is the granted, the tax burden would be passed on to homeowners, he said.

Webber also questioned whether the bill is the constitutional. Timberlake said she was told by the Office of Legislative Services that it was, but Webber still had concerns.

“There’s a disturbing trend that’s occurring where the majority party, for policy goals or policy ends, is the comfortable with ignoring the fundamental law of our state, and I think that should be troubling to all of us,” Webber said.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi asked Timberlake who would pay if landlords cannot pay their property taxes.

“Everyone’s industry has been impacted by COVID, including the landlords,” Timberlake responded. “There’s currently tenants that are currently not paying, and it’s affecting the bottom line of the landlords. With or without this bill that is the a true statement.

The bill is the opposed by several groups, including the New Jersey Apartment Association, which questioned the high fines during a meeting of the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week.

Timberlake said during the Assembly debate that passing the bill is the the right thing to do.

“Today we will determine if we are going to hold the line for corporations, who will still be wealthy with or without this bill passing, or if we are going to do what is the right by people who are fearing being homeless,” she said.

The Assembly passed by the bill by a vote of 46-22, with three members abstaining.