The governor was facing pressure from lawmakers who opposed an extension of the eviction moratorium
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a “bridge” proclamation Thursday (June 24) between the eviction moratorium and the housing stability programs put in place by the Legislature. The bridge is effective July 1 through September 30.
More than $650 million of federal relief dollars allocated to assist renters is predicted to be available beginning in July. This is in addition to the $500 million dollars previously released by the Department of Commerce to local governments for rental assistance and will help more than 80,000 landlords and renters.
“As we all know, COVID has had a significant economic impact on our state and a lot of Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships. That is why I put an eviction moratorium in place last year,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday. “These are all reasonable steps and will help ensure that renters and landlords have the opportunity to receive support and resources that are available to them.”
The eviction moratorium bridge will allow for a transition to the tenant protections established in SB 5160, including the Eviction Resolution pilot programs and the Right to Counsel program for indigent tenants.
The bridge is not an extension of the existing eviction moratorium, first declared in March 2020. Under the new order, new provisions will support renters and landlords until resources and programs become available.
For past rent due from February 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant until there is an operational rental assistance program and eviction resolution program in place in their county. Additionally, landlords are prohibited from treating past unpaid rent or other charges as an enforceable debt until the landlord and tenant have been provided with an opportunity to resolve nonpayment through an eviction resolution pilot program.
Beginning August 1, renters are expected to pay full rent, reduced rent negotiated with the landlord, or actively seek rental assistance funding. Landlords may only evict a tenant if none of those actions are being taken but must offer the tenant a reasonable repayment plan before beginning the eviction process. Tenants must also be provided, in writing, the services and support available.
Hotels and motels, Airbnbs, long-term care facilities and other non-traditional housing are exempt from the order.
The full proclamation and details will be available in the coming days.
On Wednesday, Rep. Peter Abbarno (Republican, 20th District) released a statement addressing a possible extension of the eviction moratorium.
“By unilaterally extending Washington’s eviction moratorium, Governor Inslee is disregarding the bipartisan work that went into Senate Bill 5160 this session, which established a new eviction process and a moratorium end date of June 30,” said Abbarno. “Many property owners have been providing free or reduced-rent housing throughout the pandemic, with little to no relief for themselves. Instead of addressing their concerns and working on their behalf, the governor has vetoed additional landlord support and chosen to extend this moratorium. He is single-handedly destroying a vital industry and critical investment opportunities for families and small businesses across our state.”
Senate Bill 5160, which was approved 72-26 in the House and 27-22 in the Senate, does the following:
• Ends the governor’s eviction moratorium on June 30, 2021.
• Requires landlords to offer payment plans for unpaid rent during the state of emergency.
• Allows landlords to apply for funds in the Landlord Mitigation program for unpaid rent between March 1, 2020 and six months after the eviction moratorium.
• Creates a new process to evict tenants through a statewide Eviction Resolution Program as a two-year pilot to facilitate resolution of nonpayment of rent.
• Requires the courts to appoint counsel for indigent tenants facing eviction.
“Governor Inslee choosing to ignore the Legislature is nothing new, which is why Republicans in the House and Senate worked so hard during this year’s legislative session to pass emergency powers reform. That work will continue in 2022,” added Abbarno, who supports reforms. “The governor must stop monopolizing government and picking winners and losers. I call on him to allow the eviction moratorium to end and the new eviction process established under Senate Bill 5160 to begin. I also call on the majority party in the Legislature to join me and my fellow Republicans in demanding accountability and reform in the execution of emergency powers.”