Category: Landlord-Tenant

Legal Aid for Indigent Tenants Facing Evictions

The passage of SB 5160 charged the Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA) with developing a plan to implement Washington State’s first-in-the-Nation program to provide no-cost legal representation for indigent tenants facing evictions.  OCLA has met the challenge and presented its plan to the Legislature ahead of its 90-day deadline.  The plan will bring to life Washington State’s historic Right to Counsel law.  It gives priority to those counties where evictions happen most frequently and will enable over 60 Right to Counsel (RTC) attorneys to provide full-time defense for qualified tenants.  Read more about the presentation of the plan here.  Tenants who are threatened with eviction should contact the Eviction Defense Screening Line at 855-657-8387 or apply on-line at https://nwjustice.org/apply-online.

Important Changes to Landlord Tenant Laws

The Washington Legislature recently passed a number of important changes to the state’s landlord-tenant laws (generally, at RCW 59.18).  These changes include things like standards for rent repayment plans (as long as the state eviction moratorium is in effect), help for low-income tenants to get legal assistance, support for Eviction Resolution Pilot Programs and a prohibition against “no cause” evictions.

 

The Northwest Justice Project has put together a very good summary of the changes HERE.

Information about King County’s Eviction Resolution Program can be found HERE.

You can find a link to an Eviction Defense Helper HERE.

Behind on Rent? King County Announces New Assistance

Low income residents of King County who are behind on their rent can now apply for a new assistance program.  Recipients will be selected in a weekly lottery-style drawing and can can receive up to 12 months of total rent – including up to three months of future rent.  To qualify for the aid, applicants must be experiencing COVID-related hardships and housing instability.

You can read the entire Seattle Times article HERE.

Renters can apply for the help here: https://rent-help.kingcounty.gov/

White House Fights to Increase Access to Legal Aid

Having legal representation can make all the difference in the world – from keeping someone in their home, to securing proper citizenship status, to protecting people against consumer fraud.  This week, the White House announced that it was reinvigorating federal efforts to provide that critical aid – including a request of $1.5 billion in funding for state and local justice systems.

 

You can read the White House announcement HERE.

The Associated Press story can be read HERE.

 

Summary of Eviction Protections

In response to COVID-19, governments and agencies at various levels have instituted protections for both residents and small businesses.  Things such as eviction moratoria rental assistance programs continue to be extended and modified, but it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all.  Local attorneys have created a helpful guide that summarizes what’s in place as of January 4, 2021.

The announcement and guide and be found HERE.

If You’re Facing Eviction, You May Be Protected

A recent order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prohibits evictions due to an inability to pay – under certain circumstances.  The Suffolk University Law School has created an interactive questionnaire to help people decide whether they qualify under the federal guidelines.  It also generates a declaration that you can share with your landlord.

To qualify, you must be under a certain income limit, be unable to pay housing costs due to a substantial loss of income, and not have a suitable housing alternative.

While most of the interactive forms are specific to Massachusetts state courts, the protections afforded by the CDC order apply nationally – including here in Washington State.

To see if you qualify, access the Eviction Moratorium Assistant HERE.

There is more information about the CDC eviction protections HERE.

 

Seattle City Council Votes to Restrict Winter-Time Evictions

On Monday, February 12, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance that will significantly restrict residential evictions during the winter.  Council Bill 119726, if signed by the Mayor or allowed to pass into law without her signature, will prohibit Seattle landlords from evicting low- and moderate-income tenants for unpaid rent between December 1 and March 1.  The unanimous vote was only possible after amendments were added to reduce the time period, to exempt landlords managing four or fewer housing units and to restrict the scope to low- and moderate-income tenants.

Read the full text of CB 119726 here.

When or if CB 119726 becomes effective depends on whether or not Mayor Durkan chooses to veto it and is governed by SMC 1.04.020.

Notice Loophole a Scary Prospect for Month-to-Month Tenants

According to a recent article in CrosscutLegislators passed eviction protections. Washington landlords found loopholes — a new provision in the recently-revised Residential Landlord-Tenant Act may prove to be a scary prospect for month-to-month tenants.

RCW 59.18.410(3)(d) states:

“A  tenant  who  has  been  served  with  three  or  more  notices to pay or vacate for failure to pay rent as set forth in RCW 59.12.040 within twelve months prior to the notice to pay or vacate upon which the proceeding  is  based  may  not  seek  relief  under  this  subsection (3).”

On its face, this subsection would appear to undo many of the new tenant protections put in place by the Washington Legislature.  Crosscut asserts that landlords across the state have started serving pay-or-vacate notices the day after rent becomes due, often in situations where tenants have been accustomed to a short grace period.  That grace period can be important for low-income tenants relying on the arrival of Social Security or other social services’ payments.  Tenants who receive three such notices in a 12-month period, regardless of having made their rent payments, would not be able to take advantage of the other protections provided in RCW 59.18.410(3).

The text of ESSB 5600, as signed by the Governor, is here.

New Law Helps Property Owners Remove Squatters

On May 10, 2017, Governor Inslee signed a new law, which will allow property owners in certain circumstances to have squatters removed from their property by law enforcement immediately, rather than having to navigate the lengthy eviction process.

SB 5388, which passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, took effect July 23, 2017.

Specifically, the law allows property owners to file a declaration that a trespasser – not a tenant – is on their property. This allows law enforcement to remove the person immediately, unless that person can prove they were a legal tenant within the past 12 months.

A property owner, or their agent, may initiate a law enforcement investigation and request the removal of an unauthorized person or persons. They must declare:

  • They are the owner of the premises
  • The individuals entered and remain illegally on the property
  • That the individual(s) were not a tenant at the property in the past 12 months
  • The individual(s) were not authorized to enter or remain on the property
  • That they have demanded that the unauthorized individual(s) vacate the property, but the individual(s) failed to do so

You can download a free copy of the Request to Remove Trespasser form here.

Any false declarations made by an owner or their agent under this law may bring a cause of action against them for false swearing or for making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, both of which are gross misdemeanors, and the declarant may be held liable for actual damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Law enforcement must provide the individual(s) with a reasonable opportunity to secure and present any credible evidence, which the officer must consider, showing that the person or persons are tenants, legal occupants, or the guests or invitees of tenants or legal occupants.

If it is determined by law enforcement that the individual(s) are on the property illegally, they may then proceed with removing them from the premises, with or without an arrest being made, and order them to remain off the premises or be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.