KTTH OPINION

Gross: Lawyer warns Seattle’s real estate, tenant nightmares will get worse 

Dec 8, 2023, 6:35 PM | Updated: Dec 11, 2023, 10:10 am

tenant nightmare seattle...

Overhead of a Seattle neighborhood (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

The crises around housing costs, nightmare tenants and anti-landlord policies are about to get worse for Washington, and if you think it’s bad in Seattle, just wait until California inspires more extreme policies to hit our region, warned a California-based attorney who has been dealing with a nightmare tenant saga of his own.

Avi Sinai of the Sinai Law Group represents a Santa Monica landlord dealing with an untenable situation caused by progressive housing policies. His client has been in a legal fight to get the apartment back for three years.

More on “nightmare tenants”: Seattle ‘nightmare tenant’ throws lavish parties while living rent free

Sinai’s client owns a three-bedroom apartment. One of the landlord’s previous tenants granted an unauthorized sublease without permission. And now, the unauthorized tenant won’t leave. Sinai calls her a “professional tenant,” describing her as someone who repeatedly goes through cycles of securing property, not paying rent and then exploiting a legal system that protects tenants at the expense of landlords. Records showed she had been evicted four separate times in 12 years.

COVID-era renter’s rights initiatives and tenant’s advocacy groups were the primary source of ire for Sinai and the property owner. Sinai said the advocacy counsel representing the tenant is dragging out the legal process through “a lot of motions and a lot of delays.”

“We finally were able to get a jury trial about, I want to say five and a half months after we filed the initial lawsuit eviction,” Sinai told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “The systems that we have here encourage that kind of delay, that kind of behavior and [that] really puts a lot of strain on the system and on the taxpayer. The amount of time we wasted in useless hearings and stuff that should have never been given the time of day.”

Sinai said it took nine months of litigation to get a $25,000 judgment against the renter.

“There are zero consequences for not paying rent in LA. I mean that literally,” Sinai said. “You can choose not to pay rent, delay proceedings for months, and it would still make sense for the landlord to settle with you before trial, waive the rent, seal the record, and even offer you move-out costs. Zero consequences.”

KTTH has chronicled many similar stories in the Seattle area. The common theme is that irresponsible tenants have all the power, leaving landlords in impossible positions. And Sinai warned that our problems are about to get worse.

“So, what happens in Seattle? You guys are three steps behind California with the restrictions of rent control in Washington state,” Sinai asked hypothetically. “That’s the trend that we’ve been seeing. Just a slow and steady march towards anti-landlord legislation, and in my opinion, attack on property rights.”

An example of the slow creep of radical tenant’s rights bills that trample on private property ownership is the recent passage of a “Tenant Bill of Rights” in Tacoma.  

More on Tacoma’s Tenant Bill of Rights: Tacoma’s ‘Tenant Bill of Rights’ winning by 332 votes

If this creep continues, it’ll negatively impact housing availability. Landlords told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that they’re already ditching areas that are inhospitable to them.

Most landlords are small business owners who don’t have the resources to easily pay for a lengthy process to evict a nightmare tenant. Ironically, as independent landlords pull housing units off the market, sick of a system that is intentionally stacked against them, before we know it, corporate landlords will be the only option left.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gross: Lawyer warns Seattle’s real estate, tenant nightmares will get worse