by Elizabeth Turnbull
On Thursday, June 24, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that new funds and protections will be available for renters to bridge the gap between when the state’s eviction moratorium ends and when the state Legislature’s housing stability programs begin.
“As we all know, COVID has had a significant economic impact on our state and a lot of Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships,” Inslee said during the 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.”
Announced last year in March, Inslee’s eviction moratorium is set to end June 30. Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Seattle’s eviction moratorium will be extended through the end of September.
Through Inslee’s new effort, more than $650 million in federal relief dollars for rental assistance is predicted to be available at the beginning of July. Before this money was announced, the Department of Commerce released a separate $500 million dollars to help with rental assistance for more than 80,000 landlords and renters.
With such funds, the state is attempting to put a dent in an estimated $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in tenants’ total rent debt in the state, according to estimates by state officials.
Inslee’s new eviction moratorium provision or “bridge” — effective July 1 through Sept. 30 — 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.
Estimates show that roughly 195,000 Washington renters are behind on their rent, according to recent Census Bureau statistics. And while Inslee’s bridge is not a formal extension of the current eviction moratorium, financial aid for renters is proving to be a pressing issue.
In addition to monetary aid, procedures are being put in place to protect renters as they begin the process of once again regularly paying for housing costs. For past rent due between Feb. 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 this lack of payment through an eviction resolution pilot program.
Beginning Aug. 1, renters are expected to pay full rent or reduced rent that has been negotiated with a landlord, or to be actively seeking 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 nontraditional housing are exempt from the order.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
📸 Featured Image: Protesters call for protections for renters at a rally in Renton in February 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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