April 28 brought the 2019 legislative session to a close. After 105 days in session, lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists alike were ready for sine die, and many in the housing industry were eager for a reprieve from the beating they took on the Hill this year. By the last day of session, the 2019 Legislature substantially amended key components of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) pertaining to notice periods around rent increases, termination of tenancy under certain conditions, and unlawful detainer. Moreover, lawmakers enacted unprecedented changes to the legal eviction process in residential tenancies.
Rental housing advocates hit the ground running in early January opposing shoddily conceived bills sponsored by Representative Nicole Macri (D-43) and Senator Patty Kuderer (D-48). The “eviction reform” legislation dropped by Representative Macri (i.e. EHSB 1453) and Senator Kuderer (i.e. ESSB 5600) dramatically increase the pay or vacate notice period, automatically converting term leases into month-to-month tenancies, eliminating a rental owner’s ability to collect attorneys’ fees in eviction cases, or late fees in evictions, among other amendments. In conjunction with the eviction reform bills, Representative Macri and Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) proposed bills to enact statewide “Just Cause” which would only allow a rental owner to terminate a tenancy outside of non-payment of rent or behavior for a specific group of reasons similar to Seattle’s Just Cause (e.g. sale of property, owner moving into property, etc.); otherwise, a tenant could remain in a unit in perpetuity, or until the tenant decided to leave the unit.
RHAWA and other industry advocates were successful in stopping “Just Cause” legislation and other onerous and ineffective policies in this year’s legislature. The two “Just Cause” bills that rental housing advocates killed this session include HB 1656 (sponsored by Representative Macri) and SB 5733 (sponsored by Senator Saldaña). If passed, “Just Cause” would have established a Seattle style statewide policy for legally allowable terminations of a month-to-month tenancy.
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