Seattle City Council weighs changes to COVID-19 rent repayment plan protections — UPDATE

The Seattle City Council Tuesday afternoon will consider legislation that would amend a Seattle protection for tenants behind on their rent by tying repayment plan requirements to the city’s ongoing COVID-19 civil emergency, not the state’s.

UPDATE: The bill has passed. “Rather than limiting tenants to six months to repay debts accumulated over two years, Council Bill 120305 defines a reasonable repayment plan as one in which debts can be repaid in monthly installments, with no monthly installment exceeding one-third of the tenant’s monthly rent,” an announcement from sponsoring councilmember Dan Strauss’s office reads. “This repayment plan will apply to any rental debts incurred during the City of Seattle’s ongoing COVID-19 civil emergency, or within six-months after the end of the civil emergency.”

The procedural change comes amid legal challenges and will create a new timeline for the protections which require landlords to accept a repayment plan “of rental arrears accrued during or within six months after the termination of the COVID civil emergency.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell has not said what his plans are to terminate the city’s civil emergency, established by Jenny Durkan in March 2020. In February, Harrell decided to end the long string of extensions, bringing an end to the city’s ban on evictions. 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

With nearly 100,000 behind on rent, Harrell makes Valentine’s Day extension of Seattle’s ban on pandemic evictions

Mayor Bruce Harrell will extend Seattle’s eviction protections another 30 days into February but the new administration says it wants to do more to inform people about the rules and measure its impact on leases and real estate in the city.

The latest extension protecting residential tenants, businesses, and organizations from eviction during the pandemic will keep the restrictions in place through February 14th.

Saying his administration wants to better understand “the algebra behind it,” Harrell said the next executive order includes the creation of “an advisory group for the mayor composed of tenant advocates and small landlords,” and an evaluation of “Seattle’s intergovernmental coordination in receiving and distributing financial assistance to tenants and small landlords.” Harrell also promised a new online “portal” to provide information to tenants and property owners. Continue reading

Sawant picks another fight for tenants, this time over busted boiler on First Hill

As 75,000 District 3 voters prepare to weigh in on her political future, representative Kshama Sawant says she is standing up for the residents of 34 apartment units on First Hill.

The veteran Seattle City Council member has targeted 9th Ave’s Terrace Crest building with claims of landlord negligence including a lack of heating and hot water and is demanding a “rent refund” for residents.

Sawant gathered with residents from Terrace Crest Wednesday to demand the building owner Breier-Scheetz Properties “fix the boiler which has been broken since mid-September, leaving tenants almost entirely without hot water and/or heating for the last two months.” Continue reading

With sixth extension of COVID-19 eviction moratorium, Seattle buying more time for federal aid, new programs to help tenants and landlords

Items left outside after a past Capitol Hill eviction (Image: CHS)

Seattle is buying time for thousands of renters and landlords as Mayor Jenny Durkan has signed an executive order for the sixth extension of the city’s moratorium on residential and commercial evictions during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The ban on evictions will now stretch into January 2022. By then, the city will have a new mayor and, perhaps, a plan and the relief funding necessary to emerge from the looming tenant and landlord crisis. Continue reading

This Capitol Hill candidate for Seattle mayor can’t make rent — and that’s OK

(Image: Andrew Grant Houston for Seattle Mayor)

A Seattle conservative radio show host’s attempt to take on mayoral candidate and Capitol Hill apartment resident Andrew Grant Houston over unpaid rent has backfired.

Pundit Jason Rantz targeted the “divest SPD” candidate with an article based on email from Houston’s landlord detailing more than $20,000 in back rent at the unnamed Capitol Hill building Houston calls home.

The gist: Houston’s campaign has raised more than $400,000 for his longshot bid for the mayor’s office largely from the success of its efforts to collect Democracy Vouchers while the candidate has reportedly failed to pay rent.

The unpaid rent is just as likely to garner support for Houston as it is scorn. Turns out, Houston is a lot like thousands of other renters in Seattle who have struggled to make ends meet. 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

A Broadway development more than 20 years in the making, the process to fill Capitol Hill Station’s new apartments has begun — UPDATE

Capitol Hill Station’s Park luxury apartment building will provide its tenants with plenty of Cal Anderson views (Image: Live Capitol Hill Station)

One quarter of the first batch of units in the new Capitol Hill Station mixed-use development have been leased, as of early this month, according to the complex’s general manager.

The major project above the light rail transit station has been seen as a key development for the neighborhood creating hundreds of new homes and thousands of square feet of new commercial space on Broadway. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed construction but the new, mostly “market-rate” apartments are finally hitting that market.

110 affordable units in the Station House development on the northeast area above the station opened earlier this year and faced high demand.

More than two years after the project’s groundbreaking across the street from Cal Anderson Park, which included a ribbon cutting from Mayor Jenny Durkan, the leasing process on the first 94 units of 400-plus on Broadway started in mid-September amid the coronavirus pandemic, general manager Kristin Lipp told CHS. Continue reading