INDEPENDENCE DAY – 2020 – Let Freedom Ring!

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LANDLORD VIOLATIONS – FINES

The Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) has provisions for a variety of penalties for landlords who violate its terms.  For instance, a landlord who violates the source of income clause, can be held liable for up to four and one-half times the monthly rent plus court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.  While there is no statewide enforcement mechanism for the RLTA enforcement, many cities not only have their own penalty structures, they may also create their own enforcement offices.

In Seattle, the penalties for most violations (after a 30-day cure period) are as much as $500 per day. When there are multiple violations, the fines can be substantial. There are numerous examples of owners receiving fines in the thousands of dollars. In Tacoma, there is a table of potential fines for non-compliance of rental ordinances

Many cities have fines for violations of city ordinance.  Fines can be imposed for violations such as noise, waste, rodents, broken down cars, etc.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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COVID-19 AND RENTAL DEMAND

Although rental demand is usually highest during the summer months, COVID-19 and its repercussions have changed the trend this season.

According to a Zumper report this month, all of the top 10 priciest cities (Seattle is #8) either had flat or declining rents. Many tenants are electing to renew leases rather than moving.  This is partly due to health concerns, but the governor’s ban on rent increases is also a factor.  In addition, as many companies are considering long-term remote work options, many renters are searching for more affordable options outside of metropolitan centers.  Many do not want to pay higher inner city rent, especially when they cannot use community amenities. 

Zumper’s research shows that San Francisco one-bedroom rent is down 9.2% since this time last year, which is also the lowest price point it has been since March 2017.  In Seattle, year-over-year, one-bedroom rentals are down 4.3% and two bedrooms are down 4.6%.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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MORE CHANGES TO TO LANDLORD/TENANT LAWS

Effective June 11th 2020, two bills changed the Washington Landlord Tenant Act.

~HB 1694 allows tenants to pay move in funds in installments:

~A landlord must first apply any payment made by a tenant toward rent, before applying any payment toward late fees, damages, legal costs, or other fees, including attorneys’ fees.

~If the tenant makes written request, the tenant may pay deposits, fees and last month’s rent in installments.

~Unless the tenant is on a month-to-month rental agreement, the tenant may pay these in three consecutive and equal payments, beginning at the conception of tenancy.  If the tenant is on a month-to-month rental agreement, the tenant may pay in two installments.  Payments are due with rent.

~The landlord and tenant must sign an installment schedule specifying the payment plan.

~A holding fee can be no more than 25% of one month’s rent. 

~HB 2535 mandates a five-day grace period for rent payments.  No late fees may be charged if rent is received within the first five days of the month.*

~If the rent is more than five days past due, the landlord may charge late fees commencing from the first day after the due date until paid.

~A 14-day notice to pay or vacate may be served at any time after the rent becomes due.

~The tenant may request in writing a different rent due date, up to five days after the usual due date, if the tenant can demonstrate that the tenant’s primary source of income is a “regular, monthly source of government assistance” that is received after the 1st

*Until the governor’s ban on late fees is lifted, no late fees can be charged regardless of when rent is paid.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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THE STATE OF WASHINGTON STATE

The governor extended the eviction moratorium to August 1st.  This is the second extension and includes the same prohibitions, with one change.  These terms are the same as the previous proclamation:

  1. Rent cannot be increased,
  2. Late fees cannot be charged, 
  3. A “reasonable” payment plan must be offered if tenants are having trouble paying rent, and
  4. Tenants cannot be required to vacate at the end of the lease, even if the tenant is on a month-to-month rental agreement. 

The only exception is if the owner wants to sell the property or occupy the property personally.  The proclamation requires a 60-day notice for either reason.  In Seattle, the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance would apply, which requires a 90-day notice in either instance.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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MEMORIAL DAY – NEVER FORGET

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SELLING IN THE AGE OF COVID-19 – WASHINGTON STATE

There are additional considerations when listing a property for sale with a tenant in place during the coronavirus pandemic.  While the Landlord Tenant Act says the landlord may show the property to a potential buyer or tenant with a 24-hour notice, the tenant has the “reasonable” right to say no to a proposed showing of the property.  In the current state of emergency, it would probably be considered reasonable for a tenant to deny access if the tenant is worried about exposure to the virus.

Furthermore, showing a rental property to a potential buyer would fall under the showing restrictions prescribed by the governor’s proclamation, which limits the number of occupants on a property to two.  That means that if a potential buyer and the buyer’s broker want to tour the home, all tenants would have to vacate the property during the showing.  There is nothing in the Landlord Tenant Act that gives the landlord the right to require the tenant to vacate the premises for a showing.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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COVID-19 AND RENT PAYMENTS

Landlords and property managers must be very cautious about how they approach tenants with unpaid rent.  The governor’s proclamation of April 16, 2020, prohibits treating unpaid rent as an enforceable debt or obligation, “where the non-payment of rent was a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and occurred on or after February 29, 2020.” This includes billing or invoicing the tenant, reporting unpaid rent to credit bureaus or withholding any portion of a tenant deposit.

These actions are allowed only if the landlord can prove that the tenant was offered and refused or accepted and failed to comply with, “a re-payment plan that was reasonable based on the individual financial, health, and other circumstances of that resident.”

Our expectation is that the burden of proof that a “reasonable” payment plan was offered will be on the landlord.

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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RENTED PROPERTIES – APRIL 1ST – APRIL 20TH

The number of rented properties is down more than 50%, but average price is up.

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MORE RENTAL REGULATION – AN UPDATE

Governor Inslee extended and expanded the ban on evictions. The new order is extended through June 4, 2020 and includes a freeze on rents.

Additional measures in the proclamation include:

  1. Landlords may not serve 14-day pay or vacate notices or 10-day notices for violations of lease terms.
  2. Rent increases are banned in all residential properties. 
  3. Rent increases are banned in commercial rents if the tenant has been impacted by the coronavirus.
  4. Evictions are banned in all residential properties, including motels and vacation rentals, public campgrounds and leased mobile-home lots.
  5. Landlords cannot charge rent where a tenant’s access was prevented by COVID-19; this includes seasonal and college housing.
  6. Landlords are prohibited from charging late fees, retroactive to February 29, 2020, for rent not paid during the ban.
  7. Landlords must offer tenants a “reasonable payment plan” before any past rent or other charges may be collected which came due on or after February 29, 2020, the date a State of Emergency was declared in Washington.
  8. Law enforcement is prohibited from serving or threatening to serve physical eviction orders.

Violators of this of this order may be subject to criminal penalties.

The proclamation ended with Governor Inslee urging tenants to pay rent: “I strongly encourage every tenant to pay what they can, as soon as they can, to help support the landlords, property owners, and property managers who are supporting them through this crisis.”

We are here to help you and your clients with all aspects of the rental market. Please contact us for further assistance!

Nothing found herein should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law. You should not rely solely on this information. We encourage our clients to work with a lawyer experienced in commercial and/or residential real estate matters as they can be complicated and confusing.

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