Trenton – In an effort to further assist senior citizens statewide, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Linda Greenstein, which would expand housing protections for senior citizens throughout the state.
Under current law, landlords of senior citizen projects are prohibited from imposing late charges on tenants, including those who receive certain pension benefits or governmental assistance, five business days following the due date of a rental payment.
“For senior citizens living on fixed incomes, paying rent late one month and being assessed a late fee can snowball into a vicious cycle of monthly late rent payments and late fees,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “It is especially unfair when an unexpected hospitalization causes an older resident to fall behind in rent payments. The stress of being constantly short on money and playing financial catch-up is no way to spend your golden years. With the combination of higher living expenses and poverty-level incomes, we need to have a safety net in place to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
The bill, S-942, would expand current provisions to include certain senior citizen tenants who have been admitted to a health care facility. The measure would prohibit landlords of senior housing projects from imposing late penalties upon tenants unable to make timely rent payments due to their admittance to a health care facility.
Under the bill, upon receipt of written proof that a tenant was admitted to a health care facility, a landlord of a senior citizen housing project would be required to waive late penalties during the period of hospitalization and the grace period of five business days following discharge. If payment of rent is not remitted within five business days following discharge, any late charges permitted under law may be imposed upon the tenant.
“Current housing protections have proven to be a huge asset to many senior citizens struggling to make ends meet, so why not expand these resources,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This legislation has the potential to assist many qualifying seniors not receiving the assistance they should be getting. This bill would ensure that elderly residents are provided with more time to pay their rent when they fall ill.”
The bill would also define a “senior citizen” to include a person 62 years of age or over, or a surviving spouse 55 years of age or over.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.