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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PIERCE COUNTY TENANT ASSISTANCE – COVID UPDATE

Tenants in Pierce County who make below 80% of the area median income, or an income of less than $48,450 for one, are eligible for rental and utility assistance.

Tenants can apply for up to 12 months of back rent, for as far back as March 2020.  Per Pierce County Human Services, the utility assistance includes internet service.

Pierce County received nearly $58.6 million in rental and utility assistance this month.  Landlords can preemptively set up an account and let the county know which tenants have not paid rent.  The director of human services said that landlords can let them know which tenants are behind and begin the application process.  The county will then contact the tenants.

The link to apply is here: https://www.piercecountywa.gov/7142/Rental-Assistance

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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EVICTION MORATORIUM CONTINUES

Both Seattle’s and the State of Washington eviction moratorium have been extended to June 30, 2021. The terms of each remain the same.

Tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent, but rent does continue accruing.  They also cannot be evicted for violations of the lease.  Per the state moratorium, landlords can give a 60-day notice to vacate if the owner wants to sell or move into the property.  The date of termination must be the last day of the second full rental period (not just 60 calendar days).

Seattle’s eviction moratorium does not allow landlords to give notice to vacate because the owner wants to sell or move into the rental as their primary residence.  The only exception is if the notice is, “due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.” 

In Federal Way, landlords must give a 120-day notice if the reason for the notice is that the owner wants to sell.

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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WASHINGTON STATE – A “NO EVICTION” ZONE

State-wide, tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent, but rent does continue accruing. Tenants also cannot be evicted for violations of the lease.  Per the state moratorium, landlords can give a 60-day notice to vacate if the owner wants to sell or move into the property. The date of termination must be the last day of the second full rental period (not just 60 calendar days).

The governor’s proclamation includes a requirement that the notice to vacate include an affidavit with a notarized statement by the owner attesting that the reason for the notice is selling.  There are also very specific rules about serving the notice – who receives it, how many copies and how it is delivered.

Seattle’s eviction moratorium does not allow landlords to give notice to vacate because the owner wants to sell or move into the rental as their primary residence.  The Seattle eviction moratorium bans all evictions; the only exception is if the notice is, “due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.”

Both eviction moratoriums, state, and Seattle’s, are in force through March 31, but we expect it to be extended again.

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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FAIR HOUSING IS THE LAW

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to harass persons because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin?  Recent changes, including a lawsuit and executive order, resulted in a HUD memo on February 11th defining discrimination on the basis of sex to extend to and include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This is likely to result in additional Fair Housing testing.  HUD has ordered that effective immediately, “HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) shall accept for filing and investigate all complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation.” This shouldn’t be an issue for landlords and property managers in Washington state as marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity are already protected.

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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SCAM ALERT

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns tenants to avoid scammers offering to make rental payments.  The FTC reports an increase of scams involving tenants in distress during the pandemic.  Scammers may offer assistance with rent payments or legal aid to avoid eviction.

Requiring tenants to pay money or provide personal information before assistance can be given is, according to the FCC, “a dead giveaways that it’s a scam.”  In addition, they recommend:

•         Never give your Social Security, bank account, credit card, or debit card number to anyone who contacts you. And even if you’re the one reaching out, do your research on the organization first, before you share your info.

•         If you look online for help with your rent, search for the name of the groups you find, plus the words “scam,” “fraud,” or “complaint,” to see what others are saying. Do that before you contact them.

•         If you spot a rental assistance scam like this, please tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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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