Governor Jay Inslee has once again bypassed enacted legislation passed this session, this time by announcing an extension to the eviction moratorium which is set to expire on June 30 under the bipartisan-backed SB 5160. The moratorium that was first announced in March 2020 will now extend into the fall, though the new order includes stipulations such as requiring tenants to pay rent or seek rental assistance.
In his announcement, Inslee wrote that “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,” adding that it will allow time to implement the new law.
However, some state lawmakers and landlords are crying foul over the announcement and how they say it undermines SB 5160 – which notably was unanimously approved by the House and Senate.
Under the new law, landlords would not be able to impose late fees on tenants for nonpayment of rent. Also, a landlord must work with tenants who owe back rent to create a repayment plan under stipulations outlined in the law. Meanwhile, landlords would be able to file for reimbursement of up to $15,000 under the Landlord Mitigation Program. At the same time, the law declares that the eviction moratorium ends on June 30.
Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) wrote in a statement that “time and time again the governor has acted unilaterally. The expiration date of the eviction moratorium was established through the legislative process. It’s no wonder so many people feel betrayed by the executive branch. He could have section-vetoed the June 30 moratorium deadline when he signed Senate Bill 5160, but he didn’t.”
The Washington Business Properties Association (WBPA) Chief Executive Officer Chester Baldwin wrote in a statement that “we negotiated for this date (June 30) in good faith, and the governor is undercutting that work by reneging on the terms of this agreed resolution. Considerable damage, cost, and loss of property has been inflicted on small housing providers over the year-and-half long eviction moratorium.”
While the State Supreme Court is considering whether the federal government’s moratorium applies in Washington, WBPA is currently involved in a lawsuit against Inslee’s eviction moratorium. Among the plaintiffs is Landon Glenn, who owns 46 rental units, mostly one- or two-bedroom apartments in Yakima County. He told Lens that he has “mixed feelings” about the moratorium extension.
“It’s just the uncertainty and questions of what the future holds,” he said. “I do question the effectiveness of the policies and if it’s really getting the desired results. The eviction moratorium is really just kicking the can down the road. We have a lot of tenants that are in the same boat. They’re trying to figure out what to do.”
A major frustration among landlords such as Glenn is that the moratorium’s provisions have incentivized unscrupulous behavior among some tenants and people looking to exploit the situation. That includes those who are gainfully employed and capable of paying rent yet avoid doing so, perhaps under the belief that they will be able to get money from the state or federal government. Other times, tenants have brought people to live with them and then the tenants themselves move out, leaving those inside the unit rent-free and without a rental agreement with the landlord.
With the moratorium extended for so long, Glenn said it’s unlikely he’ll ever receive the unpaid rent from many of his tenants.
“As a landlord I have no right to demand financial or health information from people and force them to give it to me,” he said. “I can’t even get them to answer the door and talk to me to find out why they’re not paying. If there wasn’t an eviction moratorium people would be willing to communicate and get the help that they need.”
Inslee’s moratorium ends Sept. 30.