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New bill could guarantee attorneys for low-income tenants getting evicted

Washington state could soon be the first in the country to guarantee attorneys for low-income tenants who are getting evicted, reports the Seattle Times. A bill is expected to pass this legislative session that would provide lawyers to tenants who can’t afford legal help, or have incomes below the federal poverty level.

As a result of this, the state is scrambling to hire attorneys before the eviction moratorium is lifted on June 30.

“This is phenomenal news because there are a lot of renters right that either, a, don’t understand the law and what’s legal and what’s not legal when it comes to renting and their rights,” said KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott.

“And then there’s so many people, they’re not just in this realm and the other parts that get taken advantage of because they don’t understand the law,” he added. “To be able to provide legal representation for these renters, I think that is a phenomenal thing — I see there’s no way for bad news on this.”

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More than 160,000 Washington households are behind on rent as of late last month. While there was pushback from landlords in the past on this, the bill will provide assistance to them as well.

“This is something that tenants groups have been pushing for. But, obviously, one of the things that they’ve seen pushback from is the fact that landlords then could be stuck with people who are taking advantage, that was one of my concerns,” said co-host Ursula Reutin.

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“But now, as I understand it, the landlord group Washington Multi Family Housing Association actually testified in favor of this legislation, because there is now also rental assistance included in it. A couple of months ago, our state did allocate an additional $350 million plus from federal money for rental and utility assistance. So landlords would not be left in the lurch, essentially.”

Gee wondered about how the notion of people getting taken advantage of tends to get framed.

“They always talk about when people are taking advantage of something, they always point out the renter ‘could be possibly taking advantage and not paying the rent.’ Why don’t they ever talk about some of the landlords that are taking advantage of the rent?” he asked.

But for Ursula, we sometimes forget the small landlords who inevitably get pushed out.

“I think we’ve talked about bad landlords, I think we’ve talked also about the advantage that huge landlord groups — property management groups — have and how they can be just brutal on tenants,” she said.

“But there is also something to be said about these small landlords who still have to pay their mortgage, and that’s who I think gets squeezed out so often.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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