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April 05, 2020

New Jersey towns, counties permitted to ban short-term rentals in wake of coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Murphy says

State and local officials have taken a number of steps to keep visitors away from the region during the pandemic

Government Coronavirus
New jersey short-term rentals ban shore towns coronavirus Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Jersey Shore towns now have the power to ban short-term rentals to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus across the state, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

New Jersey towns and counties are permitted to ban short-term rentals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak across the state, Gov. Phil Murphy authorized in an administrative order on Saturday. The order signed by both Murphy and State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan allows municipalities and counties to place “additional restrictions on the ability of hotels, motels, guest houses, or private residences, or parts thereof, to accept new transient guests or seasonal tenants.”

The latest measure, which goes into effect at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday night, builds upon the state’s previous executive order allowing towns and counties to restrict the ability of online marketplaces from posting and offering short-term rentals.

“We have heard too many stories, especially from our shore communities, of people trying to relocate, for the time being, into their towns from impacted areas,”Murphy said in a statement. “Many of our shore communities lack the health care infrastructure to accommodate an influx of part-time residents. New Jerseyans should stay at their primary place of residence for the duration of this emergency.”

Murphy’s administrative order is the latest move in a series of actions taken at the state and local levels to prevent beachgoers and second-home owners from flocking to the Jersey Shore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton was the first local official to tell people to stay away from the region, saying that an influx of guests would stress grocery stores and the county health system. 

Murphy then signed an executive order on March 21 urging state residents to stay at home to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The order also mandated that all non-essential businesses close and banned both public and private gatherings of all sizes. As part of the executive order, Murphy implored visitors and Jersey Shore property owners to stay away from beach towns until the pandemic had passed, citing the strain that an influx of people would have on local infrastructure.

This past week, all 16 mayors of Cape May County’s towns called for a suspension of all short-term shore rentals as long as the state’s social distancing guidelines remain in place. The group of mayors also asked for all shore homeowners to stay at their primary residences until the crisis has passed. The county freeholders, led by Thornton, have backed the positions outlined by the mayors.

Several Jersey Shore towns have already taken matters into their own hands to curb the amount of traffic into the region for the duration of the outbreak.

Towns such as Asbury Park, Sea Isle City, and Seaside Heights have all halted short-term rentals until further notice. Furthermore, Point Pleasant is considering stopping rentals this summer. 

Ocean City, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, Spring Lake, Belmar, Bradley Beach, and Long Branch have all shut down their boardwalks to varying degrees. Both Ocean City and Seaside Heights went a step further and shut down their beaches too.

New Jersey has 34,124 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-most of any state, and 846 deaths as a result of COVID-19 as of Saturday afternoon. Of those cases, 1,378 have appeared thus far in South Jersey.

Camden County has 481 positive cases and eight deaths, Burlington County has 469 cases and 10 deaths, Gloucester County has 215 cases and three deaths, Atlantic County has 98 cases and one death, Cape May County has 50 cases and no deaths yet, Cumberland County has 40 cases and two deaths, and Salem County has 25 cases and two deaths. 

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