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Seattle City Council approves trio of bills aimed at curbing evictions

Seattle councilmembers will vote on a trio of renters' rights proposes Monday. (MyNorthwest photo)

Seattle city councilmembers passed a trio of bills Monday afternoon, all of which will be aimed at strengthening renters’ rights and curbing evictions.

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The first of the three bills prohibits evictions for families with school-aged children and educators during the school year, mirroring a similar measure that took effect in San Francisco in 2016.

“Many studies show that housing instability has a devastating impact on the development and education of young people,” the bill’s summary reads, pointing to one study that found nearly 88% of children in families evicted during the school year had to change schools, and that over 87% “suffered ‘very much’ because of the eviction.”

A separate study also found that children in families evicted from their homes can actually “demonstrate worse academic and social outcomes than their residentially-stable peers, such as lower vocabulary skills, problem behaviors, grade retention, increased high school dropout rates, and lower adult educational attainment.”

The bill was passed out of the council’s renters’ rights committee by a 3-1 margin in late May, and was approved by the full council during Monday afternoon’s session.

Another bill approved by councilmembers on Monday prohibits the eviction of tenants due to nonpayment of rent, provided that the unpaid rent occurred during the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency, and that it was due to “financial hardship” brought on by the pandemic. It also allows landlords to “recover rent owed through a separate civil action.”

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A third measure mandates that landlords give tenants the right of first refusal for a new lease at the conclusion of an existing lease, “unless the landlord has just cause to decline offering the new tenancy, the tenant chooses to vacate voluntarily, or the fixed-term lease automatically converts to a month-to-month lease.”

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez were the lone “no” votes on all three bills.

City council also approved a nonbinding resolution, calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee to extend city and state-level eviction moratoriums through the end of 2021. Both are currently scheduled to expire on June 30.

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