ECLAA = free legal help on civil law crises for low-income Essex County NJ residents
ECLAA = free legal help on civil law crises for low-income Essex County NJ residents
Please complete our online form to tell us about yourself and your legal emergency by clicking this link and e-mailing it to us by pushing the button at the end of the form. Please answer all questions as best you can. Once you send it, we promise to get back to you within 2 business days and will likely do so within 1 business day: htt
Please complete our online form to tell us about yourself and your legal emergency by clicking this link and e-mailing it to us by pushing the button at the end of the form. Please answer all questions as best you can. Once you send it, we promise to get back to you within 2 business days and will likely do so within 1 business day: https://eclaanj.cliogrow.com/intake/310bf876bb921404c47d205a4400372e
If you are unable to access the link shown to the left, you can try calling us. However, our staff attorneys are often fielding many emergency calls and could therefore by working with other at-risk clients. So if the line is busy, please leave a message with your name, phone number, and e-mail address. Then, try to complete the quick in
If you are unable to access the link shown to the left, you can try calling us. However, our staff attorneys are often fielding many emergency calls and could therefore by working with other at-risk clients. So if the line is busy, please leave a message with your name, phone number, and e-mail address. Then, try to complete the quick intake form. Submitting the form will make it easier for us to help you more effectively when we call you back:
Our long-term office address is:
465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Room 118, Essex County Hall of Records Bldg.
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Office hours will likely return to pre-COVID hours: Monday-Friday, with intake from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. However, we cannot yet meet with clients there, so please see step 1. Once our office is declared accessible, we will update this website information.
DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS: If you need legal advice about a civil matter and qualify for free legal services based on your household income (see , DO NOT come to ECLAA in Newark at our office in Room 118 at the Newark Hall of Records, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark, NJ 07102. See the steps above.
Here are some cases that made a difference in the lives of our clients -- and what they have in common is that all were delivered remotely during COVID shutdowns and public health precautions that made it impossible to meet with our clients face to face:
Below are low-income client cases that are representative of the majority of issues presented to ECLAA during this pandemic, with many clients being helped even if there is no office, no active Court calendar, and in-place moratoriums on all payment-related evictions. These include Marini issues and nonpayment of rent cases. As our data above indicates, such cases continued to include Landlord-Tenant matters despite the imposition of COVID-19 public health moratoriums on evictions by all levels of government – while our portfolio also reflects changes in clients and their emergent legal issues triggered by the pandemic.
ECLAA intentionally highlights these first two ECLAA cases that pointed out systemic flaws in the COVID-19 public health moratoriums on evictions – which we raised with appropriate City and State parties:
Illegal Lockout Leading to Full Representation and Court Victory
Despite municipalities, counties, states and HUD each declaring that there is some sort of moratorium on evictions in NJ, we heard from a 72-year-old tenant the first week we were working remotely that he had been locked out of his apartment by his landlord, which would be illegal in normal times bur loathsome and possibly criminal with the life-saving public health executive orders in place.
· With our help remotely, the tenant got a court order that required the landlord to let him back into his apartment. Luckily, he had a cellphone, which allowed for calls and the exchange as necessary of photos.
· The landlord failed to show up at the appointed time to comply with the order, leaving our tenant waiting outdoors on a blustery, wet and cold day.
· We were able to get the client out of the rain and into a warm and safe shelter (for up to 30 days) run by a social services nonprofit with whom we regularly cooperate to meet our legal clients’ non-legal needs.
· At a Zoom hearing months later, our client won the case.
· Separately, we worked with the appropriate government authorities to assure that the tenant got proper justice for following the law — and to ask whether the landlord should suffer relevant justice as appropriate for breaking the law and the three public health moratoriums — city, county and state.
Getting the Moratorium Broadened
We also found and have reported a major moratorium crack through which many low-income tenants are falling. Individuals may take shelter in hotels or motels in a wide range of circumstances. For example, a mother and her 20-year-old son sought our assistance. Without violating our client confidentiality, here is their story:
· The son had taken shelter in a hotel last fall after his stepfather threw him out of the house. He is HIV-positive. In January, his mother joined him there to take care of him.
· Two weeks ago, they missed one day’s payment, and the hotel sought to evict them. They reported that the hotel has also been evicting other families. We were able to help the mother and son seek and then get essential temp jobs that started this past Monday. We will work with them should they have trouble with the hotel letting them stay until they get their first paychecks. In the interim, they got a cheaper smaller room at the hotel.
This family provides one example among hundreds or perhaps thousands. Some low-income people take up what is effectively permanent residence in motels, staying there for years because they can more easily afford a room than an apartment. Others end up in hotels and motels when they lose more permanent housing. This issue has been elevated to the state level.
During this eviction moratorium period, we have heard from many extended families, housed in close quarters in small apartments, where one parent is symptomatic and seeks to live temporarily in a nearby motel or hotel to avoid infecting the rest of the family, including elderly grandparents. Given the pandemic, it is critical that such individuals have access to hotel and motel accommodations and that residents of hotels and motels are protected from eviction.
Now, in less detail are some housing and other cases we have worked on with our clients remotely.
House Sale Does Not Automatically Permit Eviction
Client received a letter advising him to move on a particular date because the one family property was being sold. Client was advised to that he did not have to move on that date and that the sale of a property was not a legal basis for an eviction. He was advised to continue paying his rent and that if landlord refused to accept it, to save it in the event that eviction proceedings are filed.
Removal of Illegal Late Fees
Client pays her rent on time and the ledger always shows an ongoing balance. Client is elderly and very concerned that the landlord wants the building vacated so he can raise rents. Client sent ECLAA information regarding her landlord’s address. Letter submitted to landlord requesting that all late fees be removed from her ledger. They were.
Illegal Lockout Reversal
Due to the eviction moratorium, many landlords have begun to utilize illegal tactics to remove tenants. Our client was locked out of her apartment with three minor children. The courts were physically closed to the client and after a week of living in shelters she found ECLAA. We prepared an application to give her access to the apartment and filed with the court. She was given a hearing within 24 hours and reversed the illegal lockout. This client represents many similar cases where landlords, frustrated with their inability to have their eviction matters heard, have resorted to unlawful means in removing tenants. Unfortunately, with limited access to the courts, many clients had no way to address the lockout unless they had access to an attorney – which this client found at ECLAA – or reached the court by phone.
Illegal Utility Shutoff Reversal
Such clients face similar hurdles discussed above with illegal lockouts, except these landlords have shut off water, electricity and gas as a means of removing the tenant from the premises. We have represented many clients in this situation. One particular tenant had no electricity for at least a month and her children had no access to on-line classes for remote learning. Our application to turn her electricity on was successful, but she had endured many weeks of stress and hardship as a result of the landlord’s illegal actions.
Unsafe Pest Infestation Remediation
Our client is a single mother of three and pregnant with her fourth child. According to our client, her apartment was infested with rodents and roaches. In addition, her landlord repeatedly threatened her with removal because she was withholding her rent until the infestation was addressed. Moreover, client was in arrears for four months rent due to Covid-19 related job loss. An ECLAA attorney emailed the landlord, delineating the concerns and requested a payment plan for the arrears once the infestation was remediated. We were able to resolve this matter with the landlord’s attorney, obtaining a workable payment plan and remediation for the infestation.
Expunging Eviction Actions That Did Not Lead to Evictions
These cases represent the enormous issue of tenants unable to rent another apartment due to a record of their eviction. Many of these tenants won their eviction action, or sometimes the action was incorrectly filed by the landlord and was dismissed. Unfortunately, these filings remain on a public forum for landlords to see. We worked with one client to file an Order to Show Cause, with a Complaint, to have the court expunge the matter from their record. This matter was not seen as emergent by the court and has not been given a court date yet. Our office is committed to addressing this pressing issue in light of the eventual lifting of the eviction moratorium and wide-scale eviction of many tenants.
Correcting Section 8 Error
Client is a single mother, unemployed and on disability. She is a Section 8 recipient and currently six months pregnant. Her cabinets were removed due to their poor condition by the landlord two months earlier. She was also experiencing an ongoing leak in the kitchen that necessitated the use of buckets during rain storms. The rusted pipes behind the cabinets and the leaks also contributed to severe roach infestation. Client was extremely anxious due to her pregnancy and exposure to the noted conditions and the landlord had been unresponsive for several weeks. Withholding the rent was not an option since the entire apartment was covered by her voucher. The apartment also passed inspection through Section 8 despite the conditions noted. Our office assisted client and assembling photographs and videos of the apartment and sending them to both the landlord and Section 8. As a result of Section 8 viewing the photos, they called the DCPP on our client, accusing her of living in squalid conditions. Our office resolved the matter with DCPP, who agreed that Section 8’s actions in calling in the referral were inappropriate. We also worked with Section 8 to have them withhold the rent on the apartment until remediations were in place. This matter took a month to resolve but our client was relieved to have a clean healthy apartment after months of living in substandard conditions.
Dismissal Due to Improper Venue
Client is a tenant residing in Newark. She signed an agreement, agreeing to move out by a particular date, in order for the new owner to renovate the building and conduct a resale at a later date. In addition, she was to be paid $4,000 upon the move out date. This term was also in writing. According to client, the new owner in conjunction with her realtor, would secure a new apartment on her behalf. This promise was not in writing. Client failed to move on the set date and landlord’s attorneys filed a petition to the Chancery Division, General Equity Part, to force client from her home due to her breach of the agreement. We reviewed the petition and noted the relief sought was based on Landlord-Tenant causes of action, including removal as a holdover tenant and failure to pay rent. We prepared a Certification on client’s behalf, arguing that the relief requested must be made in Landlord Tenant court and the landlord’s petition in Chancery was to circumvent the eviction moratorium in place. Judge dismissed the landlord’s case, agreeing with our Certification that the case was improperly venued.
Access to Stored Property
Client is a 66-year-old disabled woman who called to inquire about her rights pertaining to two storage units. She told us that she had stopped payment due to financial constraints. She visited the storage units six months later to find them padlocked. Client stated all her belongings, including photo albums and valuable jewelry, were stored there. We contacted the corporate department for the units and were informed that her items in one unit were auctioned off. However, one unit was still intact with belongings, and we negotiated the price downward for client to remove her items.
Access to Deceased Brother’s Property in his Apartment
Client inquired regarding access to her deceased brother’s apartment in Newark. According to our client, the landlord would not give access due to concerns of property removal by unauthorized persons. We assisted our client in preparing a Certification and complaint to the Chancery Court, demonstrating that she was a relative of the deceased and required a court order giving access to all his personal property and accounts. We were successful in obtaining the requested court order for our client.
Reversing Child Visitation Violation
In addition to landlord-tenant matters, ECLAA attorneys have also assisted clients with family law related issues. One such client had a court order for visitation with his children that was being violated by the residential custodial parent. After a review of the order, we assisted client in filling out a motion to address these violations, with the court. Client was successful in his application and contacted his ECLAA attorney to say that he has been seeing his children on a regular basis.
NORMALLY, PRE-COVID: Monday to Friday, we see our first client by 9 a.m. and our last client by 1 p.m. We may need to end earlier if our attorneys are already helping a client already in our office whose case is complex. We apologize in advance for the chance that this may happen. We try to help each person who knocks on our door. We ask for your patience, even though that may be difficult under the circumstances. To reduce stress, please come to our office a week before your court date.
465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Room 118, Newark NJ 07102
DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS, DO NOT COME TO OUR OFFICE. SEE CHOICES 1 AND 2 ABOVE.
Each $150 covers all of the costs of providing free emergency legal assistance to a low-income client and her family when facing a civil law crisis -- most often an imminent eviction from their home.
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