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King County judge upholds series of Seattle eviction protections

A King County Superior Court judge upheld a trio of Seattle eviction protection ordinances Wednesday, in the face of a legal challenge levied by a coalition of local landlords.

The ordinances upheld by the judge include:

  • A mandate requiring landlords to offer tenants a payment plan option for late rent accrued during, or within six months of the end of Seattle’s pandemic-induced state of emergency
  • A “financial hardship” defense tenants can cite in court to challenge an eviction, also during or within six months of the city’s state of emergency
  • A ban on evictions during winter months, which would remain in place indefinitely post-pandemic

The judge also struck down one small aspect of an ordinance that had limited the ability of landlords to collect interest on late rent payments. A different judge at the federal level has previously denied a request to temporarily halt Seattle’s eviction moratorium as part of a separate lawsuit that has yet to be fully resolved.

Seattle landlords sue over pandemic eviction bans

City officials lauded Wednesday’s decision as a victory for those who’ve struggled to make ends meet over the course of the COVID crisis.

“The City stepped up to curb evictions during the most dangerous months of the year and to help prevent a tidal wave of homelessness as we recover from this pandemic,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a written release. “While some may disagree with the merits of these ordinances, the judge ruled that — with the exception of one word in one of them — the laws are legally sound. Thanks to some great lawyering, there’s a lot of Seattleites who can sleep a bit more soundly in their beds tonight.”

“These new laws provide families increased housing stability, as thousands of Seattle residents are still out of work and may continue to struggle to catch up on owed rent in the future,” Council President Lorena Gonzalez said. “The City’s legal success means Seattle families will be in a better position to recover economically as our economy begins to improve.”

Landlords have been critical of the city’s tenant protection measures, pointing to thousands of dollars in unpaid rent that they say has made it difficult to maintain and pay for their properties.

That was echoed in a statement from Rental Housing Association of Washington Executive Director Sean Martin, whose organization acted as the plaintiff in this lawsuit:

There would be far fewer affordable homes without small housing providers who, together, provide thousands of affordable units to people who want to live and work in Seattle. Today’s ruling largely leaves in place the latest in a growing number of counterproductive laws that will continue to push small housing providers out of Seattle, reduce the number of rental homes, and drive up costs for renters. We appreciate the hard work and attention the Judge gave the case and for confirming that rent and interest are owed to housing providers. We will review the ruling in-depth and decide on our next course of action

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