Lewis County landlords say eviction ban taking away much of income

Dec 7, 2020, 12:38 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2020, 11:15 am
home buyer, home prices, Lewis County...
(KIRO 7 image)
(KIRO 7 image)

A group of Lewis County landlords became the most recent plaintiffs to file suit against Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium.

Filed in the Lewis County Superior Court last week by the Washington Business Properties Association on behalf of the Washington Landlord Association and four small-time landlords, the suit seeks “injunctive relief” from the governor’s blanket ban that prevents tenants being evicted for non-payment of rent. Similar lawsuits have also been filed in Seattle and Yakima.

The eviction moratorium was first established in March to support renters who faced financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has been extended several times.

“We certainly don’t need more housing insecurity in the moment of uncertainty during this pandemic,” Inslee stated in October, when he extended the moratorium to the end of this year.

Yakima landlord suing governor says he faces foreclosure

Sue and Dan Horwath are among the Lewis County plaintiffs. The couple owns several buildings around Chehalis, Centralia, and Napavine, an investment they say is their sole income in retirement. The Horwaths had their own business restoring antique furniture, which means they don’t have the traditional retirement saving plans of people working for large companies.

“Being self-employed, our idea for retirement was to invest in property along the way as we could and have rental homes as our retirement. We don’t have 401ks, we don’t have any other of the retirement instruments that are common to probably 90% of the population,” Dan Horwath said. “This is it — the sum total of 45 years of personal work.”

They said many people believe landlords are rich, but in actuality, many landlords are normal people trying to eke out a living. In the Horwaths’ case, that income can come through a narrow profit margin.

“I don’t think most people understand that the return on your investment, in rentals like we do, is somewhere between 3 and 6%,” Dan Horwath said. “It’s not something where, because the rent is $1,000 a month, that doesn’t mean that’s an income of $1,000 a month.”

That means that having one tenant out of 14 not paying rent for nine months is “a pretty heavy burden,” Sue Horwath said.

Unfortunately, the Horwaths said that is exactly what has happened this year. One renter has refused to pay rent for nine months — or to even talk about why she can’t pay.

“When she heard that she didn’t have to pay rent, she took that literally … she has refused to talk about the rent, any mitigating circumstances, or any way to overcome the problem,” Dan Horwath said.

Because the moratorium only requires a person to state that they cannot pay, there is no way to find out if she is actually having financial difficulties. The Horwaths said that this tenant is a nurse, and they believe she has not had employment difficulties.

That particular house is due for routine renovations, including a roof. Combined with the $15,000 owed in rent, “there’s a $30,000 backlog in that house,” Dan Horwath said. Additionally, the tenant has not payed electricity, which will also come back to them.

The couple said if a tenant legitimately had financial troubles and couldn’t pay rent, they would be all right with that — provided the renter was being open, honest, and communicative.

“As long as they kept talking to us and we were convinced they were trying to find work and they were trying to work things out, we would have forgiven them — that wouldn’t have been a problem,” Dan Horwath said.

That’s why they are seeking a change in the moratorium that will require people not paying rent to prove financial hardship. That way, they said, people who are in need can get the housing assistance they deserve, and people who are in a comfortable financial position will not be able to take advantage of those in need — or of the law.

“It would make a great deal of difference if people knew that they couldn’t just decide not to pay rent — they needed to at least show some proof that they were unable, or that they were seeking employment,” Dan Horwath said.

The way the Horwaths see it, the current eviction moratorium violates private property laws because the governor is forcing them to provide free housing.

“If we were a restaurant and were shut down, at least we wouldn’t have to provide [free] meals and keep the lights on … but in our case, we are giving food away, and we’re required to do so,” Dan Horwath said.

Local News

Lisa Brooks

Lucky Washingtonian wins $754.6M Powerball prize

Check your tickets. Somebody in Washington state won Monday night's $754.6 million Powerball drawing.
8 hours ago
(Jennifer Bakos via AP)...
Associated Press

1 missing, 2 rescued from crab boat off Washington coast

A crew member remains missing and two others were rescued from crab boat that sank near Willapa Bay in southwest Washington on Sunday evening, according to the Coast Guard.
8 hours ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Deborah Horne, KIRO 7 News

Light rail riders frustrated by broken escalators, elevators at stations

Frustrated Link light rail riders say they have had it with escalators and elevators at light rail stations that don’t work.
8 hours ago
child marriages...
Associated Press

Proposed bill would pay incarcerated workers minimum wage

A Washington state lawmaker who has spent time in prison wants the state to pay incarcerated workers minimum wage for doing their jobs.
8 hours ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Crash into utility pole cuts power to Kent neighborhood

A Kent neighborhood is in the dark Tuesday morning after a crash into a utility pole cut power.
8 hours ago
USS John McCain...
L.B. Gilbert

Navy conducting anti-terrorism exercises in Everett

If you live near a Navy base like naval station Everett and you hear sirens this week -- it's not an emergency.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Lewis County landlords say eviction ban taking away much of income