Unconscionable rent increases, coupled with rising consumer costs, are harming NJ renters. According to data published by real-estate website Zillow, rents increased between 20 percent and 40 percent in 14 New Jersey counties since the start of the pandemic. The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network) is calling on the state Legislature to address concerns over the rental market by implementing stronger protections for the state’s 1.2 million renter households.
“We have seen across-the-board, post-pandemic rent increases throughout the state, and they are doing real harm to families struggling to make ends meet. NJ officials can make sure our most vulnerable residents are safely and stably housed by taking immediate action to prevent unconscionable and predatory rent hikes,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network.
New Jersey has no statewide formula for rent increases. However, NJ’s Anti Eviction Law states that “a landlord cannot make you pay an increase in rent that is so large that it is unconscionable, meaning that it is extremely harsh or so unreasonable as to be shocking.”
Berger said housing advocates are seeking guidelines to define the term “unconscionable” with regard to acceptable and legal rent increases.
“NJ renters are not ATMs for pandemic profiteering landlords,” said Berger. “It’s crucial for the health and safety of our communities and our economy to have powerful, statewide rental protections that keep renters in their homes and provide stability for both renters and property owners.”
NJ is the seventh most expensive place in the nation for renters with Hudson County being the most expensive. For the state’s more affordable counties though, there is little relief. According to Zillow, one of the few counties with typical rents below $2,000 saw the biggest spike. Atlantic County went from $1,264 pre-pandemic to $1,766.
“Families are suddenly being told to find hundreds of dollars more in their budget to keep a roof over their head,” said Berger. “With affordable rentals few and far between, families are making detrimental sacrifices to avoid homelessness. The legislature must act swiftly to end greedy rent increases.”