EXPLANATOR: Washington Tenants Get Modified Eviction Extension

How about 'Monkey Business' in Clinton?

Even with the delay, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. as of July 5 said they face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks through online responses from a representative sample of U.S. households. Here’s the situation in Washington:

Landlords successfully challenged the order in court, arguing they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access nearly $47 billion in federal money set aside to help pay rents and related expenses. Advocates for tenants said the distribution of the money had been slow and that more time was needed to distribute it and repay landlords. Without an extension, they feared a spike in evictions and lawsuits seeking to boot out tenants who were behind on their rents. WHAT’S THE STATUS OF EVICTION MORATORIUMS IN THE STATE?

Washington is one of several states that enacted a moratorium last year halting eviction proceedings. Evictions with a 60-day notice are allowed in cases in which the landlord intends to sell or move into the property, or if an affidavit declares the tenant created health and safety problems. Gov. Jay Inslee has extended moratorium protections several times, including last month. The protections will now remain in force until Sept. 30 to give landlords and tenants sufficient time to access federal aid.

Through the end of July, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants for past-due rent during the pandemic until rental assistance and eviction resolution programs are in place in their county. Starting Aug. 1, tenants are expected to pay full rent unless they negotiate a lower amount with their landlord or actively seek rental assistance. Landlords must offer tenants a reasonable repayment plan before starting the eviction process and provide them a list of services and support available to them under the assistance programs. WHAT’S BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE FACING EVICTION? The Legislature approved spending $658 million in federal money to extend the state’s rental assistance program. That doesn’t include hundreds of millions of dollars from previous federal relief programs that are being distributed to landlords. More than 33,000 households have received rent assistance through the end of June, and an estimated 80,000 households are expected to receive assistance through June 2023, according to the state Department of Commerce. Updated numbers this week show that Commerce has been billed $179 million by counties allocating aid, but the agency stressed that amount does not reflect the total amount paid to landlords.

The governor also signed a “right to counsel” measure passed by the Legislature that ensures low-income tenants have legal representation when faced with eviction. Another new law that took effect this year focuses on tenant rights and the circumstances in which they can be evicted, and in some cases increasing the notice tenants must receive before vacating. HOW ARE THE COURTS HANDLING EVICTION HEARINGS? In most judicial districts, eviction hearings in Washington continue to be held remotely. In any given year, the courts receive 17,000 to 20,000 eviction filings across the state, said Edmund Witter, an attorney with the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project. While the number has decreased during the pandemic, he expects the pace will resume once the moratorium lifts.

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