EVICTION MORATORIUMS REVISITED

While the governor’s eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire on June 30th, some cities have created local moratoriums.  Governor Inslee apparently hasn’t decided whether to extend the state eviction moratorium again, but some cities aren’t waiting for his decision.

•         The Kirkland City Council adopted, in a four to three vote, an ordinance providing for a temporary moratorium on residential tenant evictions in Kirkland due to the COVID-19 pandemic through September 30, 2021.

•         Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is extending the city’s COVID-19 moratorium on evictions, through September 30th, with the intention of providing more time for rental assistance to reach tenants.

•         Kenmore voted to extend that city’s eviction moratorium through September.

•         Auburn’s Rental Housing Code establishes temporary protections for tenants who have fallen behind on their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic through July 1, 2021.

•         City of Burien is considering an eviction moratorium, Ordinance No. 773, modelled after Kirkland’s ordinance.

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 – OUR PERSPECTIVE

Typically, we report on changes in the law without commentary.  We are making an exception here. The following analysis is made by Dorothy A. Ennes, the director of residential property management for Coldwell Banker Bain.

“There have been numerous changes in regulations regarding rentals at the state and local level in recent years.  Unfortunately, while the intention to protect tenants is good, many of the policies, in my opinion, are short-sighted.  The end result has been an exodus of small landlords from the rental market.  While tenants should be protected from slum landlords, landlords also need to be treated fairly so it makes sense for them to continue leasing their investment properties.  With a strong sales market, many small landlords are deciding to sell. Because of limited inventory, buyers are typically owner occupied and, if a property should be purchased by an investment buyer, they will have no choice but to raise rents because prices are so high. The following highlights contemplate various changes with our commentary following.”

King County in Washington State is considering an ordinance which would add another layer of regulation for landlords. On June 23rd, the Community, Health and Housing Services Committee will be considering Ordinance  2021-0131, on which would do the following:

~Prohibit landlords from requesting a social security number for the purposes of screening a prospective tenant.~

OUR TAKE. “Social security numbers provide credit history, plus access to eviction histories and criminal histories.  They also make it possible to track down a tenant who skips out owing rent.  Checking someone’s credit history is allowed if someone wants to purchase a used car.  It should also be allowed if someone wants to occupy a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

~Implements just cause termination and mandatory lease renewal.~

OUR TAKE. “A new state law, which went into effect on May 10, 2021, does this already. If the county ordinance is the same, this is redundant.  If it is different, it will just make it more confusing.”

~Introduces a cap on move-in fees and the security deposit to one month’s rent.~

OUR TAKE. “Seattle has something similar.  In my opinion, the end result hurts tenants because tenants who previously would be approved with a small increase in their deposit are either denied or must pay a full last month’s rent.”

~Limits total late fees to 1% of one month’s rent.~

OUR TAKE. “This would be ridiculous. The courts typically limit late fees to 10% per month now.  According to this, on a $2,000 rental, the maximum late fee would be $20.  That does not offer any incentive to pay rent on time.”

~Revokes a housing provider’s right to an eviction for lease violations if they accept rent payments after the violation date.~

OUR TAKE. “Trying to enforce a notice to comply with the terms of the lease or vacate, is very difficult already. With this regulation, landlords may have to choose between enforcing the terms of the lease and collecting the rent.”

~Prohibits rent increases if the unit has a defective condition.~

OUR TAKE. “Landlords shouldn’t be allowed to increase rents if a significant defective condition has been reported and the landlord is ignoring it.”

~Requires the housing provider to move the rent due date for a tenant.~

OUR TAKE. “This requirement was recently added to state law for tenants on fixed incomes.”

~Implements right to council for tenants and Introduces a county operated tenant helpline.~ 

OUR TAKE. “Would this be a general county expense (Tax Money) or one charged back to landlords?”

~Penalizes a housing provider double the damages or 4.5 time the monthly rent plus attorney’s costs and fees for a violation of any of the above provisions.~

OUR TAKE. “Blatant violations that hurt tenants should be punished, if done judiciously.”

~Requires a landlord to give 3 – 4 months’ notice for rent increases greater than 3%.~

OUR TAKE. “State law requires a 60-day notice for any rent increase. That is fair for both owners and tenants.”

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

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LANDLORD/TENANT ACT CHANGES, AGAIN…

The Landlord Tenant Act was changed again because of Covid.  Senate Bill 5160 extends and expands the tenant protections in the Governor’s eviction moratorium. 

  • The prohibition that bans late fees will be in effect until six months after the expiration of the last eviction moratorium.

  • A landlord cannot report to a prospective new landlord that a tenant didn’t pay rent on time or that the tenant still owes rent that became owing between Mach 1, 2020, six months after the expiration of the last eviction moratorium.

  • A prospective landlord may not deny a tenant, charge a larger deposit or require a cosigner because of a tenant’s nonpayment of rent during this period.

  • A landlord or prospective landlord who violates these regulations is liable for up to two and a half times the monthly rent of the rental property at issue, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. “A court must impose this penalty in an amount necessary to deter future violations, payable to the tenant bringing the action.”

  • If a tenant has unpaid rent that accrued between March 1, 2020, and six months following the expiration of the eviction moratorium or the end of the public health emergency, whichever is greater, the landlord must offer the tenant a reasonable schedule for repayment of the unpaid rent that does not exceed monthly payments equal to one-third of the monthly rental charges during the period of accrued debt.

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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WHO OWNS RENTALS?

Did you know that the majority of small rental units (defined as 1 – 4 units) in America are owned by individual investors?  Of the 48.2 million rental housing units in the United States, nearly 49% are located in rental properties of one to four units, according to the 2020 Rental Housing Finance Survey (RHFS) data released by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. For these small rental properties, nearly 73% (14.1 million) are owned by individual investors and more than one-third (7.9 million) have a mortgage or similar debt.  About 22% of small rental properties (1-4 units) are managed professionally while 94% of properties with 150 or more units are managed professionally.

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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LANDLORD/TENANT LAW UPDATES – WASHINGTON STATE

That that the legislature passed a bill changing the Landlord Tenant Act?  The bill, HB 1236 – Just Cause Termination and Mandatory Lease Renewal, was passed by both the House and the Senate, but has not yet been signed by the governor.  It will go into effect immediately after the governor signs the bill.

Highlights of the bill include:

Language that allows a lease to be terminated at the end the of a lease term is prohibited.

A landlord may not evict, refuse to renew the tenant or terminate a month-to-month tenancy, except for 11 defined reasons.

If the landlord wishes to occupy the premises or sell the rental, a 90-day notice is required.

A 120-day notice is required if the building will be demolished, substantially rehabilitated, or a change of use is planned.

When the initial lease term is for one year, the tenancy may be terminated at the end of the first year with 60 days’ written notice. If the landlord does not give 60 days’ notice, the tenancy becomes month-to-month.

The landlord is required to offer a reasonable repayment plan for COVID-19 debt based on the tenant’s finances, health and other circumstances.

The court shall consider tenants’ circumstances and repayment plan terms during any eviction proceeding.

Landlords who terminate a lease for any reason not included are liable to the tenant for unlawful eviction and subject to 4½ times the monthly rent, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

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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FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM UNLAWFUL

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia struck down a nationwide eviction moratorium Wednesday, calling it unlawful. Friedrich’s ruling applies nationwide. The essence of this case revolved around whether a federal agency, in this case the CDC, has the unilateral authority to make national declarations binding on all citizens. It does not.

In addition, the CDC order included criminal penalties. Individuals who violated its provisions were subject to a fine of up to $250,000, one year in jail, or both, and organizations subject to a fine of up to $500,000.

The Washington State eviction moratorium remains in effect through June.

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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MAINTENANCE, MORATORIUMS & MORE

That critical maintenance issues must be addressed even if a tenant is behind in rent?  This has been difficult for some landlords during the eviction moratoriums.  The landlord’s obligation to maintain the property is not waived when rent is unpaid. Per the Landlord Tenant Act, the landlord must, “except where the condition is attributable to normal wear and tear, make repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in as good condition as it by law or rental agreement should have been, at the commencement of the tenancy.” RCW 59.18.060.  Even if the lease has provisions which waive the landlord’s responsibility to maintain or repair the property, that section is legally unenforceable.

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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TENANT ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE

That there is rental assistance available for Seattle and King County renters?  The Seattle City Council just approved a $22.7 million rental assistance plan, which will be distributed as follows. 

  • $8 million to United Way King County for low-income tenants.
  • $7 million for tenants in subsidized housing.
  • $6.2 million to community-based organizations serving tenants who have been disproportionately impacted because of the pandemic.
  • $1.5 million to Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities to cover utility payments for low-income renters.

For these programs low income is defined as 50% of the area’s median income. For a family of four, that is $59,700.


Rental assistance through United Way is available for King County tenants who have been impacted financially by COVID-19 and are behind on rent.  Applicants are potentially eligible for nine months of rent in arrears and three months future rent.  Funds are expected to be available by May 10th and can be applied for here: https://fightpoverty.formstack.com/forms/rental_assistance_feedback_survey_copy

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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WHAT HAPPENED TO ONE BEDROOM RENT?

That the pandemic has affected one-bedroom rents more than other sizes?  Just as during the Great Recession, some tenants are moving out of a one-bedroom rental, into a two-bedroom with a roommate because half of a two-bedroom is less expensive than all of a one-bedroom.  A new trend during the pandemic is couples working from home, who are moving from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom so each can have a separate workspace.  

43% of rentals in Seattle are one-bedrooms, per Apartmentlist.com.

Zumper reported that as of April 11, 2021, the average price of one-bedrooms in Seattle was $1,500, which they report is a 17% decrease compared to last year.  The chart below shows the recent history of one-bedroom prices in Seattle.

According to ApartmentGuide.com, in March 2021, two-bedroom apartments were the only unit size to experience growth, both month-over-month and year-over-year. Two-bedrooms are also the only unit type becoming more expensive in every region of the country.

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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