Yes on I-127 effort underway to put Seattle rent transparency initiative on ballot

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Current rental cost datasets must be collected from sources like Craigslist while developers often have access to the most robust reporting based on property management analysis

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.25 PM On Monday, the City Council is expected to approve formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission, thought to be the first commission of its kind representing tenant interests at a United States city hall. Another group is beginning its work in the rain this Friday afternoon to also create a better, more transparent, and more trackable future for Seattle renters.

Yes on I-127 have been given approval to begin collecting the some 16,000 20,638 or signatures they will need to get their initiative on the ballot calling for Seattle landlords to provide detailed breakdowns of rents and rent increases to tenants and share that information with the city. “By breaking down costs included in monthly rent, tenants can better understand cost of rents and rent increases associated with their homes,” the group contends. “They can also use this information to plan and prepare for the future.” Proponents say the initiative would give the city “an apparatus to track rent trends.” “This allows both the city and its residents to study and understand our rental market,” they write.

Devin Silvernail tells CHS the initiative is an outgrowth of volunteers coming together through the tenant bootcamps his Be:Seattle is organizing across the city. The next camp, by the way, is next week in the Central District.

Silvernail said the effort to collect signatures for I-127 by September to make the ballot this fall — 10% of the total number of votes in the last mayoral election is the goal — is underway and you should expect to see volunteers around Capitol Hill Station.

You can learn more at whatsinmyrent.com.

Capitol Hill tenant rights group wants your voice to support Seattle Renters’ Commission legislation

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 3.18.44 PMLegislation to form a first in the nation City Hall commission representing tenants could have its final session in front of a Seattle City Council committee Wednesday and the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative is calling for a show of support to help push the bill through to a final vote:

We need renters at this meeting to show the Council and the City that we are civically engaged and eager to have our voices heard. As we move closer to the full council vote, we must continue to show up at key events for this ground-breaking piece of legislation. Equally as important as attending this meeting, we need renters there to give a short (1-2 min) testimony. This testimony could be as simple as sharing your renter story and expressing your opinion on this piece of legislation. See you there!

Can’t attend this meeting? Take 5 minutes to email/call the council!
Council contact information here:
https://www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council

The legislation will be part of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee’s morning session starting with public comment at 9:30 AM. Take a moment to add a brief email comment tonight.

CHS wrote here on early support for the Seattle Renters’ Commission. A substitute version of the bill will be up for discussion Wednesday. You can see the draft marked with changes in red here (PDF). You’ll note that the express inclusion of “renters who have experienced homelessness” as a desired part of the commission’s makeup is the most significant change.

The bill would create a 15-member commission to give renters in the city a voice on not only tenant rights and affordability issues but also related concerns like transportation access and economic development. It is also hoped to help further shape initiatives under the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

UPDATE: The legislation has been passed out of committee and will head to the full council on Monday where it is expected to be approved. Officials hope for the commission to begin meeting this summer after a spring application and approval process.

Central District Tenant Rights Bootcamp

Trying to get repairs? Worried about losing your deposit? Confused about new Seattle tenant laws? Worried about eviction?

Tenant Rights Bootcamps are a neighborhood-by-neighborhood series teaching renters how to to assert their rights, find solutions to various issues, and make change in their community.

Tenants walk away from Bootcamps with a better understanding of their rights, current Seattle landlord/tenant laws, and resources to help in trying times. They will also have the opportunity to sit and talk with someone knowledgeable in WA State tenant law.

With Tenant Rights Bootcamps, renters don’t need to search for answers. We bring resources to the people.

Tenant Rights Bootcamps are a partnership between Be:Seattle Organizing and the Legal Action Center.

This Bootcamp is co-hosted by organizers from SAFE

More info at seattletenantbootcamps.org.

Proposed Seattle Renters’ Commission will tackle tenant rights, affordability

Capitol Hill’s calls for a Seattle Renters’ Commission will soon be answered creating what is likely the first such official body in the nation.

CHS has learned legislation to create a 15-member commission to represent tenants rights and weigh in on issues of development and affordability could be introduced as early as Monday.

“The goal is to attract folks across the whole spectrum,” the Capitol Hill Community Council’s Zachary DeWolf said. “Families, seniors, geographic diversity, vouchers, newer units, older units. Everyone.”

The offices of Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess, Mike O’Brien, and Lisa Herbold have been working to finalize the proposal that comes as Seattle residents continue to face one of the most expensive rental markets… in the world.

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An eviction on 12th Ave leaves woman’s possessions on the street

As soon as her property hit the sidewalk, there were what seemed like crews of junk pickers digging through on the hunt for useful items. By Friday afternoon at 12th and Howell outside the Alyward Apartments, there were still valuables to be had including a rolling suitcase and random electronics. But the futon frame and mattress along with piles of soggy garbage seemed likely to go unclaimed.

The 12th Ave mess was the result of an eviction this week at the Alyward, a person with knowledge of the situation tells CHS. A woman who lived in the building struggled through the eviction notice process and by the point it was time for the King County Sheriff to arrive, the resident was apparently in no shape to deal with her possessions.

A department spokesperson said she was still gathering information on the eviction but, in general, the process requires days of notification so tenants have time to make plans for their property. This timeline from the Tenants Union explains the process and timing.

We are asking the sheriff for more details on this eviction and policies around the removal of property if a tenant is unable to adequately respond to the situation. We are also asking the building’s owner for more information about the situation.

Meanwhile, according to the city’s illegal dumping records, the 12th and Howell location is not yet on the report investigation list. You can see recent reports and status here. Clean-up won’t come quickly. SPU says reports will be “resolved in 10 business days.”

UPDATE 2/13/17 9:33 AM: We’re hoping to learn more from the Sheriff soon but wanted to include information from comments here in the main report. To give you a sense of the timeline in which these processes play out, a complaint filing of unlawful detainer — basically, the legal filing for a landlord to begin eviction proceedings for a tenant who owes rent or is otherwise in violation of a lease — was filed with the court on January 17th. According to the filing, the tenant owed $650 for a unit in the building with a rent of $1,050 a month or $35 per day. The document says the tenant was given a notice to pay rent or vacation on December 22nd. The writ of restitution directing the sheriff to remove the tenant and her possessions was signed by Commissioner Henry Judson on January 27th.

UPDATE 2/15/17 12:45 PM: A spokesperson for the King County Sheriff tells CHS that the detective on this eviction case described the tenant as “coherent and emotionally in control” during the process of removing her property from the apartment:

We served a copy of the notice to the tenant, along with the writ, on 2/1/17. This notice tells them what to expect with regard to their personal property. Our eviction data form asks if the tenants/occupants have any disabilities which was not indicated.

Per the detective that handled the eviction…The property manager did not inform him that there were any disabilities or that the tenant was suffering any mental crisis.

In fact, the tenant was present during the eviction. She was calm and coherent and did not display any unusual emotions or signs of being in mental crisis. The detective spoke to her in length about the eviction process and she responded appropriately.

As her personal property was being placed on the sidewalk area, she calmly collected it and walked it across the street to the nearby Public Storage facility.

“If she had requested storage, or had a physical disability, then her property would have to be stored. If she was incapacitated because of hospitalization or imprisonment, then her property would be stored,” the spokesperson said. “Depending on the severity of any possible mental illness, her property may be stored, as well,” the Sheriff rep writes.

The situation falls under state law RCW 59.18.312 (1):

“If the landlord knows that the tenant is a person with a disability as defined in RCW49.60.040 (as amended by chapter 317, Laws of 2007) and the disability impairs or prevents the tenant or the tenant’s representative from making a written request for storage, it must be presumed that the tenant has requested the storage of the property as provided in this section unless the tenant objects in writing”

Additionally if a tenant is suffering from severe mental crisis, “the detective would have had the King County Mental Health professionals out to evaluate her,” or if necessary, he would have had her involuntarily evaluated at Harborview, the spokesperson said.

Thanks to the King County Sheriff for providing more insight on the situation.

 

Affordable housing, tenant rights advocate running for council on Seattle Democracy Vouchers

Jon Grant ran for the seat in 2015, and this year he’s going for the same City Council Position 8 with a platform focused on affordable housing and tenant rights — and being one of the first publicly financed candidates ever in Seattle.

Grant, former director of the Tenants Union, announced his bid back in November with a challenge to supporters to raise 400 $10 donations in the city’s new Democracy Voucher program. He exceeded that by getting 560 vouchers averaging $16 to fund his campaign.

“We had a tremendous response,” Grant said. Grant has already received more donations for this campaign than his entire 10-month campaign in 2015.

Here’s how the voucher program works. Earlier this month, registered voters began getting four $25 in vouchers in the mail. Seattle residents who are at least 18 years old and are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident can apply online for vouchers. Each voucher has the election year, resident’s name, a voucher identification number, and may have a voter ID number and barcode to help with signature verification. All contributions are public information. Continue reading

Starting on Capitol Hill, tenant rights bootcamps will boost renter knowledge, neighborhood by neighborhood

Seattle Still Life:  Capitol Hill Mid-Century Modern Apartments and the Space Needle

When it comes to what CHS readers thought were the most important Capitol Hill stories of 2016, Capitol Hill Station was an easy runaway winner. But it could be argued that a split vote over Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative should qualify for a close second. 2017 will bring a new opportunity for Capitol Hill renters to keep pushing Seattle forward on a path to creating a more affordable city.

“Number one is to know and assert their rights,” organizer Devin Silvernail tells CHS about priorities for Seattle tenants in the new year and upcoming “bootcamps” to help educate renters on Capitol Hill and across the city. “I’d say a close second is advocating for things that can help them and their neighbors.” Continue reading

Sawant, community groups ask City Council not to water down Seattle move-in fee cap — UPDATE: Approved

No, District 3 rep Kshama Sawant hasn’t joined the NASCAR circuit. Those 26 logos she is sporting this week represent what she says are “the 26 community, labor, and faith organizations” calling on the rest of her City Council colleagues and Mayor Ed Murray to pass legislation capping move-in fees in Seattle, the political battle Sawant has put most of her local muscle behind in the final months of 2016.

The bill again worked its way out of committee and will be in front of the full city council Monday afternoon. UPDATE: The bill has passed — along with an amendment described below. New renters can expect the restrictions to be in place sometime early in the new year.
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After hitting Council roadblock, Seattle cap on move-in fees back in motion

Tenant advocates are calling for supporters at City Hall Tuesday morning as the City Council takes up a proposal to cap move-in fees in Seattle that was one of the rare pieces of Seattle legislation to be kicked back by a full vote of the council after committee approval.

Under the measure from District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, landlords could only charge tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and would need to allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments. According to an example provided by Sawant, a tenant moving into an $1,800 a month unit today could pay $5,600 to sign the lease. Under her proposal, the same tenant would only have to pay $2,400 to move-in as other upfront costs would be spread out over six months. Continue reading

Seattle City Council kicks back Sawant’s cap on move-in fees

The pro-renter agenda of District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was dealt a setback Monday when the City Council voted to send her bill capping move-in fees back to committee for further refinement.

“You can not tell struggling renters they have to wait” because you need more meetings, the D3 rep said prior to Monday’s 7-2 vote to refer the bill back to Sawant’s energy committee where it had previously passed in September. Council member Mike O’Brien sided with Sawant saying there had been sufficient discussion of the bill that would restrict landlords to charging tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and would allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments.  Continue reading