As rents on Capitol Hill continue to rise at breakneck rates, so are complaints of landlords trying to displace the residents paying those rents. Jonathan Grant, executive director of the Tenants Union, told CHS that calls about rent increases have become the top issue on the organization’s tenant’s rights hotline.
“In the last three years we’ve seen rising rents and displacement becoming the number one issue in Seattle,” he said.
Last year CHS wrote about several Capitol Hill tenants that had seen their rents jump drastically, some up to 20%. Recently we reported that average apartment rents in the neighborhood reached $1,557 a month, up $162 from last summer.
Seattle, unlike most other places in the state, has fairly robust renter’s rights laws. Grant said there are several red flags tenants should look out for if they suspect landlords are angling to get them out or illegally raise rents. The most common sign, he said, is if an owner has a capital needs assessment done on the building. Grant said inspectors poking around could signal a building is going to be sold, meaning tenants could face big rent hikes or get forced out all together.
Grant told CHS some building owners have been so bold as to attempt to raise rents for an entire building — something that would likely be illegal unless every lease in the building was ending simultaneously. Small unit upgrades are also not always what they might seem.
“Often developers make cosmetic to buildings and use that to say thats why they need to raise rents,” he said.
While some housing experts like Rep. Frank Chopp are promoting more development as a way to bring about affordability, Grant said the city cannot build its way out of displacing residents.
“It’s not just about having more units, its about preserving the buildings that are more affordable and not tearing them down for luxury apartments,” he said.
The Tenants Union is currently working with residents in the Squire Park Plaza Apartments who are fighting to prevent the nonprofit owned building getting sold to a private company. Tenants are worried they’ll eventually be forced out of their below market rate units.
You can learn more at tenantsunion.org.