Washington State Eviction Rate Below 1 Percent yet More Can be Done to Reduce It

Advocacy , Rental Assistance ,

According to EvictionLab.org, Washington’s eviction rate has continued to fall from its 2005 peak of 1.45% to 0.82% in 2016, the latest year the data is collected. Evictions remain low in Washington state and its biggest cities despite increasing housing costs brought on by historic population growth:

  • Seattle: 0.22%, or 371 evictions in 2016
  • Tacoma: 0.93%, or 363 evictions in 2016
  • Federal Way: 1.1%, or 171 evictions in 2016
  • Bellingham: 0.67%, or 132 evictions in 2016

Eviction in Washington State

Though very rare, evictions do occur as a last resort. Residents and housing providers are subject to state and local laws that govern evictions, or “unlawful detainer”, as they are referred to in Washington. The most common cause of eviction is when a resident doesn’t pay their agreed-upon rent. Nine out of ten evictions result from non-payment of rent. 

Evictions rarely occur after one instance of late or missed payment. Rather, evictions begin following a pattern of late or missing payments that become problematic for the housing provider who must cover mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, property taxes, and maintenance costs.

In most areas of the state, an eviction process may occur along these general lines:

  1. A pattern of late or missed rental payments results in a 14-day pay-or-vacate notice delivered to the resident by the property manager.
  2. After service, the resident has at least 14 days to respond to the notice.
  3. The manager must go to court and secure an order of eviction. From start to finish, this process takes at least an additional 30 days from expiration of the 14-day notice. 
  4. Once the order is entered, the resident additional opportunities to remain in the rental home subject to full payment of the outstanding rental amount.
  5. If the resident fails to make full payment of the outstanding balance, the resident must leave the property.

More Can be done to Reduce Evictions Even Further

The most effective way to help residents remain in their homes and communities is with temporary rental assistance. Rental assistance helps a resident struggling to cover their housing costs due to unexpected life events like car repairs, medical bills, or the loss of a job. In Seattle, a 2017 Housing Levy report demonstrated that 629 Seattle households avoided eviction proceedings due in large part to financial assistance.

Currently, many rental assistance programs make financial assistance available only after a notice of nonpayment is served, exclusively in eviction court, or when a person is physically homeless. The law should be changed to allow residents who need the extra help to apply for assistance and apply it directly to their rental costs while they get back on their feet.

Rental assistance opportunities should be more available to more residents of Washington in their local community.

  • HB 1406, passed in the 2019 Legislative session provides the opportunity for jurisdictions with <100,000 residents to use a portion of the sales tax for rental assistance.
  • A portion of the revenue generated from the increased Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) can be used to create a statewide rental assistance program available to renters experiencing hardship and assist them in getting on their feet.
  • Provide rental assistance funding access to local organizations, community centers and other micro-neighborhood facilities to create greater access to available financial resources.

We’ll be working with community leaders and other stakeholders to enact these changes in 2019 and the 2020 legislative session.