Growing concern from landlords as Gov. Inslee extends eviction ban
This week, Gov. Jay Inslee extended protections for renters in Washington state through the end of the year with an eviction moratorium.
“We are extending the rental eviction moratorium through the end of the year, through December 31. It was set to expire this week, so I wanted to get people an answer as soon as I could,” Inslee explained at a Thursday press conference.
Many landlord groups backed the move when the initial ban was ordered in March as the pandemic started spreading, leading to shutdowns and widespread layoffs. Though that support still exists, there are ongoing concerns about the specifics in Inslee’s proclamation, the only eviction moratorium among West Coast states that doesn’t require renters to prove they actually need the assistance in order to get the blanket protection.
“There’s some folks that see the orders as being OK not to pay rent, and for those folks, I hope they understand that just because they’re not paying rent doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible for that debt,” said Kyle Woodring, director of Government Affairs at Rental Housing Association of Washington.
He says industry-wide, about 10% of renters are using the protections. But among his members, the number is even higher.
“More than 15-20% when you count people who make partial payments or have not communicated at all, or have fallen behind,” Woodring explained.
“Landlords in his group are typically not professional landlords, but they own one or maybe two properties that they count on for income or retirement, and some are just hanging on,” he added.
It’s definitely having an impact, and he worries about the long-term effect.
“How many months can I go without paying my mortgage before the bank’s going to do something? And I think that gray area is creating a lot of fear and insecurity. So you see people selling their units, you see people really struggling to figure out how they’re going to keep that unit operating for the resident,” he explained.
Inslee was asked whether he intended to take any action to protect landlords.
“As far as the back rent, as part of this, we’ve required people to be reasonable in the negotiations of these things. And there is an incentive by landlords to keep their lessees, you know, at in the residence, even if the moratorium is listed. We hope that that will be the case,” Inslee said.
Here’s the problem:
“The problem with the order is it … says that it encourages people to get a payment plan, and it says that payment plan has to be reasonable. But at the same time, it turns off some of the notice provisions and processes in current law because they’re tied to the beginning of an eviction.”
Something is going to have to give, Woodring warns.
“Washington is the only West Coast state that doesn’t require a renter to indicate if they are financially impacted by COVID-19 as a justification for not paying rent – which opens the door to some who abuse the system,” Woodring said. “We must direct relief to those who need it and avoid blanket orders that force housing providers to bear all of the burden of providing shelter without covering their costs. Short-sighted policies like this renewed order will continue to jeopardize our already fragile housing system.”
Here are some of the things Woodring hopes the governor and his staff will realize moving forward:
- Allocating accessible funds for proven rental assistance programs. Those in need should not fall through the cracks and rental assistance is a proven way to keep people in their homes.
- Ninety-one percent of the rent a tenant pays goes to mortgage holders, financial institutions, taxes, maintenance costs, payroll for staff, and utilities. Less than 10% goes back to the property owner.
- Housing providers have seen as much as an 85% increase in noise complaints and a 36% increase in criminal or violent behavior on the property. Behavior-related issues are causing stress among residents, causing good tenants to be forced to leave their homes, and allowing bad actors to remain in the property.