Why a phone call is no longer the first stop for help

Posted By: Denise Myers Membership ,

Back in the good ol’ days, landlord-tenant laws were simple and rarely changed. Over the course of four full decades since Washington’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act was passed in 1973, only ten significant statutory changes were made, and this includes the City of Seattle. In this last decade, while housing shortages ramped up, so did legislation. First in the City of Seattle, and then across the State of Washington, over 50 significant changes have been made to rental regulations. This is an increase of 1900%, and most have appeared in just the last few years. (See Restrictions, Risk Piling Up for Washington Housing Providers published in the May 2021 edition of CURRENT.)

Some of these laws are simple, such as changing the length of a notice period. However, many are so complex we are still trying to understand them for months or even years later. Attempting to continue our telephone helpline service (Resource Desk) was an exercise in futility. Our staff members had difficulty keeping up with the volume of calls, and the complexity of information was often impossible to explain over the phone. Unable to keep the expanded staff positions filled, we decided a new approach was necessary.

Initially, we stopped taking phone calls and went to email-only support. Then, following best practices used by other organizations, we decided to invest in a system that would help us provide pre-vetted answers to our members based on a question or search phrase entered. This system is now available to RHAWA Residential Rental members only, but we have plans to incorporate Manufactured Housing members in the future.

Since implementing the system in August, 2021, we have seen an increasing level of success in providing quick, accurate answers to members.

  • 53 Articles were created by staff, based on current RHAWA attorney-reviewed educational materials.
  • 1000+ phrases were searched by members that resulted in relevant article to read.
  • 338 member questions were answered by staff.

If you have not yet joined the growing number of members who have discovered the new Support Center, we encourage you to do so next time you have a question about rental laws and best practices in Washington State, or any of its cities and counties.

  1. Browse from our website to Resources, and then Support Center or go straight to rhawa.org/support-center.
  2. Click on the "Access Support Center" button. If you are not already logged in, you will be redirected to do so.
  3. As a member, you will automatically logged into the Support Center. From here, you can browse or search articles, or click on “Support” in the lower right corner to ask question.
  4. The handy Support Center “Bot” will suggest articles based on a question or phrase you enter. It may show a few articles, but the MOST relevant one will be listed first.
  5. If your question is not answered by suggested articles, you can send a message to our Support Center staff who will respond to you within one business day. Just click on the "Get in touch" button, then "Leave a message" and enter your question. A resource specialist will answer your question via email in one business day.

In most cases, a resource specialist can answer simple questions quickly, and provide links to recommended articles that give more detailed information. These answers will appear in your email. In some cases, if a member has difficulty understanding the provided written information, our resource specialists are happy to follow up with a phone call.