The Senate approved legislation today that would expand the Governor’s authority to freeze rent hikes in times of emergency. The bill, S-2341, sponsored by Senator Samuel Thompson and Senator Joseph Vitale would give the Governor the ability to put a complete freeze on rent increases for commercial tenants with fewer than 20 employees, as well as residential tenants, regardless of any inflation that may have occurred during the period of the notice.
Sen. Sam Thompson’s bill to allow the Governor to freeze rent hikes for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis passed the Senate today. (©iStock)
Current law allows the Governor to freeze only residential rent increases, not commercial, with a “Notice of Rent Protection Emergency” (NRPE) and landlords are still able to take inflation into account. This bill will amend the NRPE statute and enhance the Governor’s powers in states of emergency.
“Small business owners are the lifeblood of our communities and they are inherently vulnerable to changes in economic conditions like the current fiscal catastrophe,” said Senator Thompson (R-Burlington/Monmouth/Ocean). “It’s vitally important to protect these small employers from crippling rent increases that could put them out of business while the economy is suppressed. Social distancing has taken a toll on them, but when life returns to normal, mom-and-pop retailers will play a major role bringing shoppers back to our downtowns and town centers.”
“Small businesses like restaurants and diners, much like many families in New Jersey, simply do not have the capacity to sustain prolonged periods without money coming in,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Any jump in rent could be the straw that breaks the back of many of our neighborhood businesses which would not only devastate communities but slow the eventual economic recovery of a crisis like COVID-19. People and businesses have been asked to work together, to adhere to social distancing guidelines and to even close those doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The least we can do is ensure they aren’t hit with an unexpected bill when this is all over.”
Under the bill, also sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex) and Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), the Governor would have the authority to set the duration and geographical parameters of the NRPE.
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