Mark Harmsworth of the Washington Policy Center shares why HB 1124 is poor policy that is looking for a problem that does not exist and will not result in better renter protections
Washington Policy Center
House Bill 1124 (HB 1124), introduced by Representative Strom Peterson (D), would increase rents and reduce available rental housing in the residential rental market. The bill would put a 5% cap on rent increases annually, unless the property owner gives at least 6 months’ notice to the renter of the increase. A renter would then be able to terminate an existing lease, without penalty as long as its not within 45 days’ notice of the increase date. The bill would also create a right of action for treble damages against a property owner that continues to collect rent according to the original lease agreement, if the tenant decides not to accept a 5% (or other amount) rent increase.
HB 1124 caps rent late payment fees that can be assessed to $75.
Rents are going to increase as property owners will want higher rents to mitigate the risk of a renter walking away from a lease without a penalty. This cost will be passed onto all the renters, including ones with excellent credit and rental histories who pay rent on time.
Property owners, to avoid the instability that HB 1124 would create, are likely to offer leases limited to 12-months to avoid the penalties and liabilities prescribed under HB 1124. It is cheaper to allow a tenant to vacate a property after 12 months and then start a new lease with a new tenant at the market rental rate, than lose several months of rent because a renter walked away from a lease early.
HB 1124 would likely create automatic escalators in the original lease agreements (similar to the commercial real estate market) to allow increases above 5% to avoid the HB 1124 restrictions. By accepting the lease agreement in advance, HB 1124 would not be applicable.
The current rate of inflation in the US, created in part by uncontrolled federal spending, is estimated to be 7.1%. Property owners will be losing money on rents even if they increase rents by 5% as prescribed by HB 1124. Property owners will not rent properties at a loss and as a result, less rental property will be available.
HB 1124 would cost renters more money, increase liability for property owners and decrease rental property availability. The increased costs will be amortized across all renters irrespective of a renter is a good or bad tenant.
Decreasing the available rental inventory will drive up rental costs making the rental shortage situation worse.
HB 1124 is poor policy that is looking for a problem that does not exist and will not result in better renter protections. It will lead to less rental property availability and higher rents and should not be adopted.
Mark Harmsworth is the director of the Small Business Center at the Washington Policy Center.
- Opinion: WA Cares investment meeting talks money, mentions renewed websiteThe state’s long-term care fund, WA Cares, has already spent a significant amount of money and offers limited benefits to workers, highlighting concerns about its effectiveness and potential drawbacks. Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center provides some of the meeting’s highlights.
- Opinion: Let’s eliminate light rail and tolling from the I-5 Bridge replacement at the same timeEditor Ken Vance shares changes to elements of the proposed project that he believes many Southwest Washington residents would support.
- Opinion: State salary report shows running a school district is often the best job in townLiv Finne of the Washington Policy Center believes that it’s important for the public to be informed about how much school leaders are paid and how effective the system is at educating children. Washington State Fiscal Information
- Letter: ‘The process for restoring an effective representative form of government is now about the healthy functioning of citizens’ minds on important matters’Matt Garland states that Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez is misusing federal funds by using taxpayer dollars to pay for her campaign mailers and that her town halls are really not public outreach town halls.
- Should Washington workers fired for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine be rehired by the state?Should Washington workers fired for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine be rehired by the state?
“5%” a year is plenty. – “Unless the property owner gives at least 6 months” is perfectly reasonable. (but there should still be a cap on that too.)