By: Michael Safren, Esq.
On April 16, 2020, Governor Inslee issued a new order No. 20-19.1, which extended and expanded a statewide ban on evictions. Governor Inslee’s previous order, which placed a moratorium on residential evictions, was set to expire on April 17, 2020. Just as in the previous order, order No. 20-19.1 prevents landlords from evicting in all situations that fall within the Landlord/ Tenant Act, and prohibits law enforcement from assisting in any evictions until June 4th, 2020.
However, the order expands rental protections to tenants and changes landlord obligations to tenants. Unlike the previous order, Inslee’s April order provides a wider range protections for tenants, extends those protections to some tenants that not previously covered by the previous order and now limits rental increases on commercial tenants affected by Covid-19, limits landlords ability to raise rent or increase deposits, and importantly requires a landlord to first offer a reasonable payment plan to a tenant if the landlord wishes to enforce the unpaid rent and charges incurred during the declared state of emergency.
Specifically, the order:
1) Prohibits residential evictions in other dwelling situations, including but not limited to:
- Lots/parcels (some motor home-owners own the vehicle but lease the lot)
- Transitional housing
- Public lands
- camping grounds
2) Prohibits enforcement of agreements to vacate.
3) Prohibits a landlord from requiring a non-paying tenant to move to a lesser unit, and prevents landlords from threatening to take action against tenants.
4) Prohibits landlords from assessing or threatening to assess late fees or other charges for non-payment.
5) Prohibits landlord from assessing (or threatening to assess) rent for housing/parcel where the tenants access or use was prevented as a result of COVID. Such as:
- Seasonal/college housing closed;
- People who planned to move in but are prevented from doing so due to Covid19;
- People who were forced to leave due to COVID needs of their own or others.
6) Prohibits landlords from increasing rents or deposits for residential and commercial units or for threating to increase rents or deposits. As it relates to commercial rental properties, this prohibition applies only if the commercial tenant has been materially impacted by the COVID-19, whether personally impacted and is unable to work or whether the business itself was deemed non-essential or otherwise lost staff or customers due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
7) Prohibits landlords from treating unpaid rent and charges as an enforceable debt, unless the landlord demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence to a court that the resident was offered, and refused or failed to comply with, a reasonable repayment plan that was reasonable based on the individual financial, health, and other circumstances of that resident.
If you have questions about how Governor Inslee’s new eviction moratorium impacts you, please contact our offices to discuss your individual concerns.
Michael Safren is a Partner at The Law Offices of Jenny Ling, PLLC. His practice focuses on business, real estate, and civil litigation.