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Seattle Extends Evictions Bans, Forces Landlords to Offer Payment Plans

Posted By: Nicco Eblum-Tabanda

Three bills have been passed through Seattle City Council over the past week and await to be signed into law by Mayor Durkin. These three bills severely limit the rights of housing providers effectively for the remainder of the year and potentially into 2021. The first bill, CB 119784, was passed through City Council on Monday, May 4, 2020, and effectively bans civil eviction proceedings within six months after the termination of Mayor Durkin’s Eviction Moratorium for nonpayment of rent. The other two bills were heard and passed through Council on Monday, May 11, 2020. CB 119787 bans the use of eviction records occurring during the Emergency Order and for the six months immediately following the ban, and CB 119788 allows tenants who have overdue rent to pay back their housing provider in installments during this same time period. All three of these bills would take effect immediately due to emergency.

CB 119784 specifically prevents housing providers from bringing forward civil eviction proceedings within six months after the termination of the Mayor’s Eviction Moratorium if the reason for eviction is for the following two situations: The first is if the tenant fails to comply with a 14-day notice to pay-or-vacate during or six months after the Mayor’s Eviction Moratorium ends, and the second is if the tenant habitually fails to pay rent resulting in four or more pay-or-vacate notices within a 12 month period. If a housing provider issues a notice for the above reasons within the six month eviction ban then the notice must include this statement that this policy can be used as a defense to eviction

A court may require a tenant who successfully asserts a defense in a 14-day pay-or-vacate during or six months after the Mayor’s Moratorium Eviction to pay any owed rent in installments, and the tenant must “self-certify” that they are experiencing hardship in order to receive this affirmative defense. Attorney fees and court costs to a housing provider from an eviction proceeding regarding the listed reasons above are prohibited.

Under CB 119787, housing providers cannot take adverse action against a prospective or existing tenant or occupant or a member of the tenant or occupant’s household based on any eviction history for six months after the end of the Mayor’s Emergency Order unless it’s regarding an action being taken by a tenant who was a threat to the health and safety of others. The bill also states that the City "intends" that any eviction history during this six month period after the end of the Mayor’s Emergency Order should be considered good cause for an order of limited dissemination unless eviction proceedings on the tenant were due to the tenant being a threat to the health and safety of others. When a housing provider screens potential tenants, the notice must now include:

“The landlord is prohibited from taking an adverse action against a tenant based on eviction history occurring during or within six months after the end of the civil emergency proclaimed by Mayor Durkan on March 3, 2020, and that the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is the department that will enforce any violations of this ordinance.”

Finally, CB119788 will require housing providers to allow tenants to pay rent owed in during, or within six months after, the Mayor's emergency proclamation on March 3, 2020, in installments. There are separate installment plans depending on how much rent is overdue. Tenants will be allowed to pay one month or less of overdue rent in three consecutive equal, monthly installments, or pay over one month and up to two months of overdue rent in five consecutive, equal monthly installments. Tenants who owe over two months of overdue rent will be allowed to pay in six consecutive, equal monthly payments. Any remainder will be due at the end of the payment period. Tenants may also propose an alternative payment schedule, which, if agreed to by the housing provider, shall be described in writing and signed by the tenant and housing and deemed an amendment to any existing rental agreement.

It can be a defense to an eviction if the notice does not contain the required information stating that the housing provider must provide the tenant a reasonable payment plan, and housing providers are prohibited from accruing late fees, interests, or "other charges", due to late payment of rent during, or within one year after the termination of the Mayor's emergency proclamation on March 3, 2020. Just like in the extended eviction ban, attorney fees and court costs incurred by a housing provider from an eviction proceeding arising from this policy may not be awarded.