How Seattle’s extended eviction moratorium may leave small landlords behind

Sep 25, 2021, 7:34 AM
Seattle apartments, landlords...
The interior of a Seattle apartment. (Joe Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons)

Seattle has extended a citywide eviction moratorium until January 2022, and approved two new regulations that impact landlords.

Gov. Inslee extends eviction moratorium ‘bridge’ period through end of October

The first of those regulations is that landlords will have to cover moving costs for tenants if rent increases more than 10%. Second, landlords have to give at least six months notice before raising rents.

Brent Smith is a former Kenmore City Council member, a former landlord, and a current real estate broker. He, like KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show, asked who is thinking about the landlords, particularly those that own single units or buildings with just a few tenants.

“I do think, as Gee said, it does kind of kick the can down the road,” Smith said about the eviction moratorium extension. “… I see it as an equity issue, as much as anything, and there’s a real focus right now on solving the need for tenants who cannot pay their rent or arrears in rent. But there’s very little effort being put forward to address what the landlords are going through for all of these thousands of tenants that aren’t paying rent.”

He feels like the rules of the game are being changed on property owners who have done everything that could be expected of them to meet code regulations.

“Whatever the requirements are, they played by the rules of the game very fairly,” Smith said. “And arbitrarily, the government can come in and just say there’s a moratorium and we will continue to extend it. I believe it’s like this sixth extension on it.”

“To me, it’s a fairness and an equity issue,” he added. “It doesn’t diminish the value of those that are feeling the pain on the tenant side, but there should be at least an acknowledgement and a process that’s much more easier than [it is now] for … landlords to get some kind of compensation.”

Smith says every landlord, at one point or another, has had someone who is late on their rent payment or cannot pay. But it’s common to work something out.

“It’s in everybody’s best interest not to escalate the issue, to resolve it,” he said. “You work out a system that makes sense. And so, for me, when I see this coming down the line, it’s like, well, there are a lot of regular landlords that have a mortgage payment on their properties and they’re not getting that assistance, and yet to just be able to tell people you can arbitrarily continue to not make your payment, that’s basically like giving them assistance to themselves.”

“It’s sort of a zero sum game the way it’s played out, where everything we want to give to the tenants right now seems to be taken away from the landlords,” he added.

In addition, there have been so many changes for landlords in Seattle.

“You can’t keep up with what almost are monthly changes in the rental codes and regulations in Seattle, it’s very difficult,” Smith said.

He emphasized that while he understands the plight of tenants, he thinks it should be easier for landlords to be compensated somehow when they’re not getting rent. He suggests that landlords be reimbursed for the same amount of rent that tenants are allowed to forgo. There are also, Smith says, too many restrictions on the federal funds set up to compensate landlords.

Without addressing the needs of landlords, Smith says more and more will leave Seattle. That means the city could very well lose more affordable rental properties run by small landlords because it will be taken off the market and likely offered by new landlords at higher costs.

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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How Seattle’s extended eviction moratorium may leave small landlords behind