A Big Thank you + Resources for Housing Providers as COVID-19 Eviction Bans End

Advocacy , COVID-19 ,

On behalf of the rental housing industry, we offer our deepest gratitude to all Washington housing providers for stepping up and carrying a significant burden during COVID-19. Unlike any other industry, housing providers were asked to carry the financial burden of keeping residents housed during the pandemic.

Many did not receive any rental payments or rental assistance over a period that lasted nearly a year and a half. Unfortunately, the pandemic resulted in the loss of hundreds of rental homes while others struggled to make ends meet. Those who did receive rental payments saw the rents significantly decline, resulting in loss of income for retirees and other small housing providers.

As housing providers and our economy begin to slowly recover, there are resources available to help cover some of the costs incurred over the last year. Eviction is always a last resort for housing providers, so we’ve compiled additional programs and information to help you work with your residents who may be behind on rent and utilities.

Apply for Rental Assistance

The State of Washington will receive more than $900 million in rental assistance from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Recovery Plan Act (APRA). These dollars are meant to assist in the payment of rental assistance arrears and provide future rental payments for renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • $140 million in State CARES Act General Relief Funds.
  • $920 million in federal rental assistance in Washington state.
  • $658 million in APRA General Relief Funds for additional rental assistance,
  • $28 million in operations and maintenance assistance for Permanently Supportive Housing (HB 1277).
  • $5.8 million in additional investment towards the Landlord Mitigation Fund (HB 1277).
  • $110.2 million in permanent rental assistance to assist those experiencing homelessness and those at risk of becoming homeless (HB 1277).

In addition to this rental assistance, here is a list of county-by-county resources, available to apply for rental assistance.

Also available through the Washington State Department of Commerce, is the Landlord Mitigation Program, Limited Landlord Relief Program and Tenancy Preservation Program.

Create a Payment Plan

There are some differences in the state laws and local laws in Seattle when it comes to creating a payment plan. For the state, it is three months for every one month of unpaid rent; except in Seattle which is three months for the first month, five months for one to two months and six months for three or more months.

When a resident does not pay rent, you can provide a 14-day notice (after the eviction moratorium expires).

Provide a written offer to a resident according to the above and let them know that they have 14 days to respond to the offer. Also provide the offer of the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program. The payment plan should be in writing, signed by both parties, and should not include late fees or other one-time fees associated with the tenancy. However, the payment plan can include utilities that are unpaid.

 

Engage in Mediation

Mediation and dispute resolution are invaluable tools to assist housing providers in solving issues with residents.

To access and engage in this, send the notice provided to the resident along with the 14-day notice and the offer of the payment plan to the local Dispute Resolution Center.

Every county in Washington offers free dispute resolution and mediation services. For more information and a detailed list of organizations, go to Resolution Washington  or the Washington Courts Dispute Resolution Centers  listings.

 

Terminology and Definitions

Below is an overview of many terms and definitions around the different types of leases, evictions and lease terminations.

So-called just cause evictions require housing providers to cite at least one of a specific list of reasons to terminate a month-to-month tenancy. This can be anything from a failure to pay rent up to illegal activity. This requirement creates challenges for housing providers because it requires them to provide witnesses and testimony to prove harmful or illegal acts occurred. This often pits neighbors against neighbors and opens residents up to retaliation from the very people they reported to the landlord.

A fixed term lease has a defined beginning and ending date and ends on the date specified in the rental agreement

A periodic or indefinite period lease may have a term, but automatically converts to month-to-month at the end of that term and continues in perpetuity.

The non-renewal of a lease is not an eviction. It is the end of a fixed term lease.

A termination of tenancy is different than an eviction. A termination is when a housing provider ends a rental agreement with a resident. A resident can have their tenancy terminated and move out without being evicted.

A Notice to Vacate is a written notice given to the resident by the housing provider or property manager requesting the resident leave the property within a specified time frame. This type of notice is typically given during the end of a lease period, or due to an infringement of the lease agreement.

An eviction is the rare legal process and lawsuit that has a resident removed from a property they fail to leave. In 2019, in King County, there were 4,471 evictions. To put this in perspective, there are more than 363,000 apartment homes in King County. This represents an eviction rate of approximately 1%. King County Housing Authority files the most evictions.

We know this has been a difficult time for housing providers, but the end of the eviction bans provides housing providers with a starting point toward recovery.