Governor Inslee extends evictions ban through December 31

Posted By: Kyle Woodring (deleted) COVID-19,

Governor Inslee announced on October 9, 2020 an extension of the eviction ban in place across the state through December 31, 2020. The previous order had been set to expire October 15. No significant changes to the current order are expected, including bans on evictions and rent increases.

Included in the extension is a continuation of the ban on rent increases, effective retroactively to February 29, 2020, and no evictions or terminations of tenancy may be issued with narrow exceptions granted regarding termination of tenancy under two circumstances.

Under the July 24, 2020 order, terminations were allowed when the direct owner intends to occupy the unit as their primary residence, or when the owner is selling the unit. Both scenarios require at least 60 days' notice. Final details of these provisions under the new extension may change, however, and neither of these scenarios address what occurs if a jurisdiction's local laws require longer periods of notice and it is recommended that owners contact an attorney in such situations prior to issuing the notice of termination of tenancy.

Throughout the summer RHAWA, working in concert with other real estate and rental housing advocates, continually engaged the Governor’s office about much of the concerning policy language contained in his executive order. Beyond the obvious continual issues with a blanket ban of all evictions for non-payment and behavior, the order contained language that was difficult for both housing providers and renters to understand relating to reasonable payment plans, communications of rent owed and many other situations that were likely not contemplated when the order was originally drafted.

In response to the continued grass roots advocacy the Governor’s office put together a stakeholder group containing many different housing interests along with tenant and social justice advocates. While the group did not solve every problem in the order, it was a positive development that the Governor’s office was able to hear concerns of housing providers and more directly analyze housing data relating to behavior issues and nonpayment of rent.

The order now allows for general notification of future rent increases, clarifies that the protections are not available for holdover guests who have not formed a landlord-tenant relationship, allows for general billing and behavior communications outside of traditional eviction notices, and many other minor changes designed to address real issues being experienced by property owners and managers under the continual eviction bans.

The most controversial issue was whether the order should contain language requiring tenants to declare that they are unable to pay full rent due to a loss of income related to COVID. The federal CDC order, along with most states have this requirement, but it has been lacking in Washington state. While this issue wasn’t addressed directly in the new order, the language does ask the stakeholder group to continue to work for the next 30 days to find an amendment that addresses the situation where a tenants refuses to communicate with a housing provider about their financial situation.

Many of these changes have new language, that must be interpreted and analyzed for their practical meaning. There is no doubt that while the new language clarifies some issues, it will create new ambiguities in other areas.

Please stay tuned for further information and practical application of this order.