Seattle City Council to reconsider rent data bill vetoed by mayor — UPDATE

The Seattle City Council is set to vote again Tuesday afternoon on legislation vetoed by Mayor Bruce Harrell that would require the city’s landlords to report valuable metrics including how much rent they are charging to help City Hall better plan housing and development needs in Seattle.

Harrell vetoed the legislation after it narrowly passed 5-4 in June citing concerns from property owners that the reporting would be a burden, too costly for the city to track, and not useful because of industry reluctance to provide accurate values. Continue reading

Sawant amendment to Seattle’s ‘six-month defense’ passes as City Council continues tweaks to pandemic protections for renters

Amid ongoing legal challenges, the Seattle City Council continues to adjust legislation hoped to help protect renters during the pandemic.

Tuesday, the council unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Kshama Sawant to amend Seattle’s “six-month defense” ordinance.

The. previously passed ordinance provides tenants with a defense against evictions for six-months after the end of the eviction moratorium which officially ended in February. Continue reading

Fire doors and ‘food on the stove’ — Fire safety tips you may not have known for Capitol Hill apartment dwellers

A 2021 fire at the Quinalt Apartments

More than half of Capitol Hill residents live in apartments but many of the lessons we’ve learned about fire safety have been focused on single family style homes.

To address apartment fire safety tips for Seattle’s growing population of apartment dwellers, the Seattle Fire Department is sharing lessons and learnings for the multifamily population.

SFD has seen steady numbers of multifamily building fires in the past two years — around 350 to 400 multi-residential fires a year.

William Mace, an education and outreach advisor at SFD, says the top four biggest causes of Seattle apartment building fires are unattended cooking, heaters, electrical appliances, and candles.

Mace wants to make sure the message is clear to Seattle apartment residents that fire doors must stay closed regardless of hot weather. He attributes the “chimney effect” as one of the major causes of disaster during the New York Bronx apartment fire on Jan. 9, killing 19 people, including nine children.

“When there is a big event somewhere in the country, a major fire, where a lot of people die, people start asking questions and they want to know for obvious reasons what they should do in that situation,” he said. Continue reading

First in the nation Renters’ Commission trying to pick up the pieces from pandemic including Seattle’s inspection backlog

(Image: CHS)

By Elizabeth Turnbull

Five years after Seattle became the first city in the nation to create a Renters’ Commission, the group of appointees and volunteers is focused on sifting through a pandemic world and addressing needs like securing funding to address a backlog of inspections in Seattle

“Renters have faced [many challenges] with losing jobs and being backed up on rent, and then having the moratorium, you know sweating that every time, not knowing if it was going to be extended or not,” Mac Scotty McGregor, a co-chair of the commission, said. “I know some people want to act like it’s over with, but it’s not.”

Since 2020, and the beginning of the global health crisis, McGregor and others on the commission saw apartment inspections put on hold while residents were also forced to spend more time at home. Continue reading

Seattle weighs options after court strikes down ‘Eviction Defense for Renters’

A key component of Seattle’s efforts to protect renters from eviction as the city emerges from years of COVID-19 restrictions has been struck down by the Washington State Court of Appeals.

CHS reported here in May 2020 on Seattle’s “Eviction Defense for Renters,” a policy that was designed to provide renters with a six-month cushion after the lifting of COVID-19 eviction restrictions. The Seattle City Council legislation from then council president M. Lorena González was intended to create “a defense a tenant may use for six months should a landlord take their tenant to eviction court” and establish 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. Continue reading

‘Has your landlord violated your rights?’ — Sawant office preparing legislation to strengthen penalties for landlord violations

Kshama Sawant’s office says the District 3 representative on the Seattle City Council is preparing legislation “to strengthen the City’s enforcement procedures when tenant rights are violated” and is calling for tenants across Capitol Hill and the Central District to share their stories.

Has your landlord violated your rights?

  • Ignored necessary repairs, such as for heating and hot water, addressing infestation, or fixing broken appliances?
  • Unjustly withheld security deposits? Threatened retaliation for tenants speaking out?
  • Attempted to unjustly evict? Increased rent without the legally-required notice? Charged extra fees?
  • Other abuses?
    Tell us your story! Fill out the form here.

“My office has heard from renters who have gone months without heat, without hot water, with mold or roach infestations, with holes in the ceilings, windows, and walls, and many other unacceptable housing conditions,” Sawant said in the announcement sent by her City Hall office last week. “We have seen a landlord attempt to intimidate renters into signing away their right to relocation assistance after their building was gutted by fire. We have seen landlords retaliating against renters who contact building management to request basic repairs, and many other abuses of renter rights. Continue reading

City Council to vote on Sawant’s bid to extend Seattle’s pandemic eviction moratorium — UPDATE: Rejected

The City Council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt a resolution brought by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant that would legally change the date the city’s prohibition on residential evictions end in Seattle.

UPDATE 4:25 PM: Following council president Debora Juarez’s recitation of two years of passed legislation involving pandemic renter protections, the body rejected the Sawant resolution in a 3-5 vote. Only Teresa Mosqueda and Lisa Herbold joined Sawant in yes votes on the extension. Tammy Morales was not present for the vote.

The rejection followed an attempt at compromise in sorting out an extension on the city’s eviction restrictions as Herbold proposed an amendment that would have extended the restrictions only through April 30th. But that path was rejected with Sawant joining the “no” voters setting up the vote rejecting her proposed longer extension. Before the final vote, Sawant thanked the dozens of speakers who had commented in favor of the resolution and told the council the rejection would be part of a spike in evictions after February 28th.

Original report: The move would reset the clock on Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to end the restrictions on February 28th leaving residential tenants behind on their rent around six months more of pandemic protections. Commercial tenants, meanwhile, will only have their own negotiating skills to fall back on.

Sawant’s resolution would modify the civil emergency order that is the legal framework for the restrictions to be in effect “until the termination of the COVID civil emergency” which was proclaimed on March 3, 2020 and “affirmed and modified” previously via resolution.

Sawant is calling on supporters to speak out in support of the extension. “If the City Council does not vote yes on our resolution to extend the COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium, it will result in a spate of evictions and homelessness,” she said in an email to supporters. Continue reading

Sawant marks ‘Renters’ Bill of Rights’ victories with passage of 180-day rent increase notice, relocation assistance legislation

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is celebrating two more planks of a “Renters’ Bill of Rights” approved Monday by the Seattle City Council.

The first will require landlords to provide earlier notice of rent increases from 60 to 180 days while the second bill approved Monday requires landlords to pay three months of rent for low-income renters who relocate after rent increases of 10% or more.

CHS reported on passage of Sawant renters rights legislation this summer as she said the notice and relocation bills would be her next push. The summer bills provided tenants “right of first refusal” rights, and bans on school-year and pandemic evictions. Continue reading

Sawant celebrates Renters’ Bill of Rights progress, says earlier rent increase notification and relocation cost legislation next

Sawant office volunteers and staff collecting signatures in support of her Renters’ Bill of Rights (Image: Office of Kshama Sawant)

The District 3 representative for Capitol Hill and the Central District celebrated a suite of renter protections passed by the Seattle City Council Monday with a call for more.

“Today’s bills put people before profits. They put the rights of renters above the interests of corporate landlords. They prioritize housing stability instead of racist gentrification,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant said in an announcement of Monday’s full council votes. “I especially want to congratulate the hundreds of community members who wrote letters to City Councilmembers in the days leading up to today’s votes, and to the dozens of community members who spoke out in public comment against watering down the bills with pro-corporate landlord amendments that were introduced two weeks ago.” Continue reading

County expands $125M Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program for landlords and renters

Capitol Hill and Central District property owners with renters struggling to pay during the ongoing economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis could be eligible to receive financial assistance as the first phase of King County’s Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program begins. The first phase is starting with landlords with five or more units with tenants in need of assistance:

Outreach to landlords, property managers, and property owners is underway now, and enrollment of properties will happen over the next three weeks. Information for property signup is available on the EPRAP Landlord page.

Individuals and families living in properties signed up and approved for the program will be covered for rental assistance and will not have to apply independently in May.

By mid-May, the second phase including property owners with five or fewer units kicks in. Continue reading