Seattle has put a so-called “Eviction Defense for Renters” in place to protect tenants for six months after the state’s ban on evictions during the COVID-19 crisis is eventually lifted.
The Seattle City Council bill from president M. Lorena González addresses what comes after the state and city’s moratorium on evictions is lifted and provides “a defense a tenant may use for six months should a landlord take their tenant to eviction court” and establishes that renters can use “non-payment of rent for any reason as a defense to eviction, as long as they submit a declaration of financial hardship to the court,” an announcement on the bill’s passage reads.
“After the immediate health crisis is over, we know the economic ripple effects will be felt for some time. Tenants who have lost their jobs or seen their income significantly dropped during this pandemic need time to find their way back to economic stability. This legislation provides tenants recovering from this crisis an additional six months of housing stability through an added defense in eviction proceedings after the city’s eviction moratorium ends,” González said after the unanimous vote to pass the bill Monday afternoon.
“Tenants may use this defense if needed, but this bill does not release renters of their contractual obligations to pay their monthly rent. If you are a tenant who can afford to pay your rent in full, you absolutely should.”
The day’s session of the council as it continues to meet virtually via a video conference call system during the outbreak was a parliamentary “ordeal,” reports Seattle City Council Insight and included more than an hour of public comment before the vote, mostly from independent landlords asking for an exemption for buildings and houses held by smaller property owners.
“I hate evictions,” one said. “They’re an absolute last resort but an important tool for housing providers when all else fails.”
Dana Frank, part of a family with holdings across the Central District and Capitol Hill, said the result of eviction restrictions will be to further erode smaller landlords and undo her family’s decades of work.
“I’m astounded that our efforts to fight red lining and get funding are being attacked by a self-proclaimed group for rent strikes and eviction bans,” Frank said.
“If we are denied rent the properties will lack funding, repairs will not be seen. The long-term effect of the ban and rent strike is we would be forced to sell to giant investment groups and would wipe out efforts and any my ability to pass my legacy to my children and their future.”
Despite the concerns, an amendment to exempt landlords with four or fewer units failed.
The new legislation will create payment plans during the COVID-19 crisis and six months afterwards for tenants to use “on a specific installment schedule towards becoming current on overdue rent and meeting their contractual obligations,” according to the council’s statement on the bill’s passage. “This legislation was modeled after ‘best practices’ currently used by landlords and tenants,” the statement reads.
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