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Gov. Inslee extends the clock on evictions, sets rules barring them

People behind on rent will have more time to resolve being in arrears under new orders made by Gov. Jay Inslee last week under the shadow of the state’s eviction moratorium ending June 30.
The new ground rules are: By Aug. 1, renters must either begin paying full rent, negotiate a plan to pay extra to their landlord to catch up on back rent or apply with a government rental assistance program asking for help.
“Landlords may only evict a tenant if none of those actions are being taken but must offer the tenant a reasonable re-payment plan before beginning the eviction process,” Inslee’s office said through a press release. “Tenants must also be provided, in writing, the services and support available.”
Landlords need to offer reasonable repayment plans for catching up that are no more than one-third of the monthly rent, and it could be less than that if one-third is a hardship, from information from the Northwest Justice Project.
Locally, Snohomish County already has a rent assistance program administered by The Volunteers of America Western Washington (VOA).
One way to get started is to call the 211 hotline to ask for pre-screening for rent help.
It launched in April and already has more than 9,000 households signed up, and was signing up 200 households a month, officials said earlier this month. More details are in this Tribune story here.
The VOA also has a mediation center between tenants and landlords also. Its phone number is 425-339-1335.
New tenant protection laws created by the Legislature this spring provide low-income tenants access to court-appointed lawyers over their eviction case, and require landlords to first offer a repayment plan to the tenant before escalating to filing an eviction in court.
Some of these programs are still being put in place, though. For example, some counties don’t have a rent relief office fully set up yet.
Inslee said the state has $650 million in federal and state dollars in-hand toward rent relief, but still needs to set up systems to distribute this money.
During a press conference Thursday, June 24, Inslee described the extension order as a “bridge” to prevent evictions while these safeguard systems are still being put in place. It’s a bridge “because it’s creating a new structure as we’re getting here from there,” Inslee said. He explicitly denied that the order extends the state eviction moratorium. The state Legislature voted to have the moratorium conclude June 30, and Inslee signed the bill into law.
This bill also disallows landlords from charging late fees for unpaid rent from March 2020 onward. This prohibition lasts through Dec. 31.
Snohomish County’s local rent relief program at the VOA came through federal dollars, and has $30 million more to distribute, officials there said earlier this month.
State officials estimate there are more than 80,000 households statewide with back-rent due. Collectively, this back-rent totals $1.1 to $1.2 billion in arrears, they said, and this debt pile adds $110 million in more rent due each month.


What can you do if you owe months of rent?

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The state eviction moratorium ends June 30. For thousands worried about having past-due rent, there is help.

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