Making a More Affordable Seattle and Keeping Residents in Their Homes: Mayor Durkan Applauds Committee Passage of Updates to City Ordinances to Align with More Robust Protections Offered by the State and Announces Transmittal of Additional Tenant Protections to Council

Seattle (August 14) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan applauded members of the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts (CRUEDA) committee for the quick passage of her legislation to harmonize the City’s ordinances with the improved tenant protections offered by changes to state law. Her legislation was transmitted to the City Council in July.  

“To address our housing and affordability crisis we need new and innovative tools to help keep Seattle residents in their homes. We also have to help victims of domestic violence not be revictimized by evictions or unfair treatment,” said Mayor Durkan. “As the population of renters continues to rise, now more than ever it’s important that we improve upon, and provide better access to resources, for renters and property owners so that they can understand their obligations under the law.” 

Mayor Durkan’s legislation updated Seattle’s tenant protections, including the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, aligning them with new standards set in Washington State’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. The revisions to Seattle’s law 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; and
  • Limiting the potential for eviction based on late fees, legal costs, or other charges unrelated to the rental costs of a unit by harmonizing the definition of “rent” to match new state law.

In another step, Mayor Durkan recently transmitted additional legislation to better protect renters at risk of eviction. As part of her July tenant protections announcement, Mayor Durkan directed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) to draft legislation to further improve protections. 

The suite of legislation recently transmitted would make the following progress to help keep Seattle residents in their homes:  

  • Improve knowledge of tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities to help prevent disputes before they happen by making it unlawful for a landlord to issue a notice to terminate tenancy, increase housing costs, or enter a home unless that notice references how to access the City’s Renting in Seattle program that offers information and resources on the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords;
  • Increase compliance of rental unit standards by requiring that landlords register with SDCI as part of the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) before delivering a notice to terminate a tenancy, (prior to this change landlords were required to register with RRIO much later in the process, prior to the court authorizing the eviction); 
  • Lower the likelihood of disputes about rent payments by requiring that receipts are exchanged for rental transactions; and 
  • Reduce the burden and cost that electronic banking requirements can place on tenants by requiring that landlords allow payment of housing costs by cash, check, or other non-electronic means. 

These added protections will also be considered in the CRUEDA Committee, chaired by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle/South Park). 

Improving tenant protections is a significant component of Mayor Durkan’s Housing Seattle Now initiative, launched July 24. In addition to tenant protections, Housing Seattle Now will make a surge of investments, beyond the ongoing housing investments made through the Seattle Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), to create affordable housing for low- and middle-income families (middle-income starting at 60% area median income or $66,400 for a family of four).  

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 renters 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.