Seattle City Council legislation protects renters evicted during COVID-19
The Seattle City Council passed legislation Monday to protect renters, ensuring evictions that occur during and six months after the COVID-19 crisis can not be used against renters in the future.
Council Bill 119787, sponsored by Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant, prohibits landlords from using eviction history during Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “Proclamation of Civil Emergency,” and up to six months after the emergency, as a basis to deny tenancy.
“We’re all facing hard times right now and difficult financial choices,” Morales said. “Our family, our friends, our neighbors have lost jobs due to the economic situation and are doing their best to survive. No one should have to worry about finding housing after this is over. Eviction proceedings – even ones in which tenants win in court – follow renters like a scarlet letter and make finding housing next to impossible.”
“Furthermore, as research has shown, evictions occur at higher rates among people of color and women, and I’ve repeatedly said this crisis cannot lead to disaster gentrification,” she added. “This legislation ensures COVID-19 related eviction notices and filings don’t haunt tenants for the rest of their lives.”
Sawant said Monday’s 8-1 vote builds on other tenant protections and victories, including the recent moratorium on winter evictions.
“We also know corporate landlords will continue to try to find ways to exploit and abuse renters. That’s why it’s vital that we continue building the movement to win the complete suspension – without consequences – of rent, mortgage, and utility payments, and continue organizing renters to fight evictions,” Sawant said.
The legislation applies to non-payment of rent and just causes for eviction. It does not apply to evictions due to tenant actions that constitute an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or household members.
“It’s more important than ever to have protections for the large number of tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to loss of income. When a tenant misses a rent payment due to no fault of their own, they will have a difficult time finding new housing, applying for loans, or securing other help. The downward spiral can be endless,” said Edmund Witter, Supervising Attorney at the Housing Justice Project.