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Mayor Durkan and Councilmember Herbold Announce City’s Next Steps to Protect Tenants from Eviction and Help Keep Seattle Residents in Their Homes

Mayor Has Directed the City to Update Tenant Protections Including the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to Align with State’s New More Robust Residential Landlord-Tenant Act; Councilmember Lisa Herbold Will Also Introduce Legislation to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors from Being Held Liable for Property Damage Caused by Their Abusers

Seattle (July 10, 2019) – As Seattle and the region face a housing crisis, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Councilmember Lisa Herbold announced a suite of measures as the City of Seattle’s next steps to safeguard tenants from eviction and help keep Seattle residents in their homes.

Mayor Durkan has introduced legislation to update the City of Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to harmonize the City’s regulations with amendments to the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (ESSB 5600). Further, Mayor Durkan instructed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to draft legislation to further improve tenant protections.

“As we address our region’s housing crisis, we will continue to act within our authority to protect Seattle’s renters and give clarity to landlords,” said Mayor Durkan. “I also thank Councilmember Herbold for her work to protect domestic violence survivors from eviction due to the shameful acts of the perpetrator.”

Updates to Seattle’s laws will include:

  • Extending the amount of time tenants are given to respond to a potential eviction by increasing the minimum response time to a notice to pay or vacate from three-days to 14 days;
  • Granting more advanced notification to tenants for any increase in rental costs by requiring at least 60 days’ notice for all rent increases;
  • Limiting the potential for eviction for non-payment of fees unrelated to the rental costs of a unit by harmonizing the definition of “rent” to match new state law;
  • Creating consistency with relocation assistance available to tenants who are forced to move as a result of emergency orders or code violations;
  • Expanding the eligibility for low-income tenants to receive emergency relocation assistance upfront; and,
  • Improving transactions and notices between landlords and tenants related to non-electronic payments of rent, reasonable notice for planned utility shut-offs, and the distribution of information about the availability of assistance via the Renting in Seattle website. 

As a companion to Mayor Durkan’s legislation, Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle/South Park) announced that she will be advancing her legislation resulting from recommendations from the Seattle Women’s Commission’s Losing Home Report to:

  • Protect domestic violence victims from being held liable by their landlord for property damage caused by their abuser;
  • Address the financial impacts of tenant-initiated lease terminations; and 
  • Address affordability barriers created by both lease limitations on roommates at the beginning of tenancy and family members not on leases, in the case of death of a leaseholder, at the end of tenancies.

“Domestic violence survivors shouldn’t be punished for damages caused by their abuser; tenants shouldn’t face steep fines when they unexpectantly have to leave a lease; and roommates and family members, oftentimes sources of supplemental income and support, shouldn’t be evicted if rent is made,” said Herbold. “We must fix the eviction system so that people facing everyday obstacles aren’t forced into homelessness.”

Over 46% of Seattle residents live in rental housing. From 2012 to 2017 the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom has increased by 37 percent, reaching $1750. Renters who face eviction are disproportionately women, people of color, and are more likely to be at risk of displacement. In most cases where evictions are filed, they are filed with the tenant owing one month or less in rent.  

Throughout the 2019 Washington State Legislative Session, Mayor Durkan lobbied for increased funding for affordable housing and additional renter’s protections. Other changes in state law include:

  • Ensuring that notices to pay or vacate include information on accessing legal or advocacy resources and are translated in the top ten languages spoken in Washington State;
  • Allowing the court to reinstate tenancy if the tenant can commit to a payment plan of outstanding fees and rent; and
  • Expanding the Landlord Mitigation Program to reimburse landlords for payment of outstanding fees and rent if the court reinstates tenancy.

Since taking office Mayor Durkan has taken several steps to support renters and access to affordable housing. Yesterday, she signed legislation and an executive order creating a path for more in-law apartments and backyard cottages. In her first act as Mayor, she signed an executive order to develop and implement strategies, including rental assistance, to support low-income households on the Seattle Housing Authority waitlist. Since December 2017, and along with investment from our city, state, and federal partners, Mayor Durkan has announced more than $710 million to fund development of affordable homes. In February 2019, Mayor Durkan signed an executive order to address displacement and establish a community preference policy.

In March, Mayor Durkan signed legislation implementing the citywide expansion of Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) that will produce 6,000 affordable homes throughout the city within 10 years. In April, Mayor Durkan announced the launch of the Renting in Seattle program, which provides a centralized resource for tenants and landlords. In May, Mayor Durkan transmitted her legislation to address community displacement to City Council, which included updates to the Office of Housing policies and programs to promote low-income and marginalized communities access to opportunity to help prevent displacement. In June, Mayor Durkan signed legislation advancing her vision of an affordable, livable community at Fort Lawton.