Inslee extends and expands eviction moratorium, prohibiting rent hikes
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, tenants who are unable to pay rent will be able to remain in their homes for another month. Gov. Jay Inslee has extended the eviction moratorium enacted last month, adding more protections for renters.
The new order expires June 4. It prohibits landlords from starting the eviction process if a tenant can't pay rent. It also bans law enforcement from carrying out eviction procedures.
Additionally, this new proclamation includes a ban on rent increases and late fees. It also clarifies things for some specific dwelling situations, including people living in motor homes or those unable to return to seasonal housing, such as students.
The changes come after renters and their advocates said the initial moratorium failed to protect tenants from these additional costs, even as unemployment soars in Washington.
But as with the first proclamation, Inslee's expanded moratorium still requires tenants to pay rent eventually or risk eviction once the order is lifted.
For Xochitl Maykovich, political director at the Washington Community Action Network, some questions still remain about what happens to renters down the line.
“For people who are ineligible for unemployment that have had their incomes drastically reduced because of these stay-at-home orders, in particular for people who are undocumented, we’re going to have to do something to make sure that they do not lose their housing once this moratorium is up,” she said.
Maykovich said one solution could be direct rent assistance. Both renter advocates and landlord groups have called for such subsidies.
Brett Waller is the director of government affairs at the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, which represents landlords and property owners of larger housing units. Waller said housing providers have expressed concern about meeting their expenses if tenants are unable to pay rent.
Rent, he explained, goes toward paying the property’s mortgage, payroll for employees who operate and maintain the property, repairs and other expenses. Rental assistance could help landlords keep up with those regular costs.
“It restores the continuum of what the rent payment does and what that provides to the balance of operating and maintaining a rental property,” Waller said.
While some cities and counties are expanding their rental assistance capacity, there is no centralized program to help renters pay.
In a national survey of landlords, about 16 percent of tenants reportedly failed to pay rent in April. About 84 percent paid at least partial rent.