New WA program plans to help curb conflict after eviction moratorium
A new pilot program being launched in six counties aims to help avoid conflict between landlords and tenants when the eviction moratorium eventually lifts.
First established in March when the pandemic began, the eviction moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent. It does not erase the rent that is due when the moratorium eventually lifts.
That’s where the Eviction Resolution Program comes in.
“It was developed to anticipate what we can do to alleviate some of the wave of evictions that will hit when the moratorium lifts,” said Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Clint Johnson.
The brainchild of the Washington State Superior Court Judges’ Association work group in partnership with the State Office of Civil Legal Aid, the pilot program is essentially required negotiation — it mandates that landlords and tenants have a discussion and to try to find a compromise before the landlord goes to court for an eviction order.
“The idea is to connect with trained mediators, there are also advocates for housing that are part of the process … bringing landlords and tenants together to come up with solutions that will avoid evictions,” Johnson said.
Examples of compromises could include a payment plan, or a landlord allowing a tenant with back rent to stay for a little while, to give them time to find a new place to live. The mediation is a free service.
“There are no limits to the solutions that are out there other than the limitations of creativity,” Johnson said.
To ensure that both parties fully participate in trying to get to a solution, mediators and advocacy groups will have to attest that the negotiation was done in good faith. Only then, if no agreement is reached, can a court grant an eviction order.
Johnson said that the program helps landlords by getting them the money they rely on, and it helps renters by keeping them from becoming homeless, while also letting them avoid the credit effects of an eviction.
“The hope is that it makes a difference in keeping folks in their homes and off the streets … and it avoids all the costs, the delays, the impacts on your credit, on your record,” he said. “This is an important program that hopefully will have not just short-term, but long-term significance in addressing homelessness.”
Other counties participating in the pilot program include King, Snohomish, Thurston, Spokane, and Clark Counties. These are the counties with the highest population, and tend to therefore be a hotspot for evictions.
If the program is found to be a success in the first six counties, it could soon spread to the entire state.