LEGAL BATTLES + LANDLORD RIGHTS
RHAWA's Ongoing Fight Against Tacoma Measure 1, King County + the US Supreme Court
Tacoma Measure One
RHAWA’s Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is closely scrutinizing the proposed Tacoma Measure 1 on the ballot that will be voted on in the November 7, 2023, election. As you recall, this measure would impose even stricter rental restrictions than what the city of Tacoma just passed this July. Some of these proposed restrictions may be ill-conceived and require further clarity by the City Council if passed, or perhaps even require judicial review to ensure no illegal provisions are placed on housing providers.
In addition to fighting tooth and nail opposing Tacoma Measure 1 on the ballot, the LDF along with the rest of the RHAWA government affairs team, is mapping both a legislative strategy to fix any elements of the measure that we deem unworkable or inconsistent with state law as well as reviewing the measure in detail for any significant legal flaws. This measure, if passed in Tacoma, is a likely roadmap for additional local and state legislation proposing new rent restrictions.
King County Superior Court Eviction Filings
Several members have continued to find that things are getting very dire and at the tipping point at King County Superior Court when it comes to scheduling hearings for evictions. Several of our attorneys have reported hearings are down to 4-5 per day for no reason and hearings requested in September are not being scheduled until late January. This is unacceptable and the LDF will be considering action to address and fix this issue which will certainly include communication with the King County Superior Court Presiding Judge and potential litigation if required. The Legal Defense Fund intends to pursue this matter aggressively.
US Supreme Court Petition for Writ of Cert Yim v. City of Seattle
On September 26, 2023, RHAWA filed a petition to the Supreme Court of the United States asking the court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Yim v. City of Seattle, the Fair Chance Housing matter. As you recall, Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance declares it unlawful for private property owners to consider a prospective tenant’s criminal history when deciding who may occupy their property. The ordinance bans such consideration regardless of the gravity of an applicant’s crime, the number of convictions, or other indicators that the applicant poses a risk or harm to an owner’s family or other tenants, and furthermore subjects owners to massive civil penalties for considering that history when selecting tenants. The City exempts itself and other public housing providers from these restrictions.
The question presented to the court is: Does Seattle’s restrictions on private owners’ right to exclude potentially dangerous tenants from their property violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process? The Supreme Court only accepts a small handful of the many petitions filed before it every year. We feel we are presenting a strong and convincing case, so we are hopeful.
Inslee Eviction Moratorium – Gonzales, et al. v Jay Inslee & State of WA
A divided Washington State Supreme Court ruled on September 28, 2023, in the Gonzalez, et al. v. Jay Inslee & State of WA which concerns Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation, which barred landlords from evicting residential tenants for failing to pay rent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In their 5-4 ruling, a majority of justices upheld a lower court decision that the governor “acted within his statutory authority” in imposing the eviction moratorium from March 2020 through June 2021. In dissent, Justice Charles Johnson contended that Gov. Inslee’s proclamation exceeded his statutory authority and wrongly barred landlords from pursuing evictions over unpaid rent. Justices Barbara Madsen, Susan Owens, and G. Helen Whitener concurred with Justice Johnson. RHAWA had filed an amicus brief on the matter.