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Seattle Rental Property Owners Sue Gov. Inslee Over Eviction Moratorium

Posted by sonrise on September 11, 2020
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Landlords in Washington state are in the midst of the most challenging year in recent memory. With moratoriums on evictions still in place due to COVID-19, anyone who owns or manages a rental property is likely holding their breath as they wait for the latest developments.

Throughout Washington State, the struggle is ongoing. One of the biggest headlines in recent weeks is that a group of Seattle landlords has sued Mayor Jenny Durkan and Governor Jay Inslee over the city and statewide eviction moratoriums.

This story, of course, has even developing since the early days of the pandemic, and has been taking landlords and tenants alike on a rollercoaster ride. Governor Inslee passed one of the country’s earliest and most thorough eviction bans back in February. Inslee’s moratorium blocks Washington landlords from evicting tenants, unless one of two criteria is met:

  • The tenant is causing a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of others on the property (this does not include evicting a tenant for contracting Coronavirus, which is very much against the law).
  • The landlord intends to sell the property, or wants to move into it themselves, in which case they can evict a tenant with at least 60 days’ notice.

Beyond that, a landlord can’t evict a tenant in Washington State for any other reason, including nonpayment of rent. The moratorium was set to expire at the end of July, but was extended by the governor through late October, continuing protection for tenants, but at the same time extending the strain on property owners and landlords.

Some of those landlords in Seattle have responded by filing a suit against Governor Inslee, as well as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who implemented a citywide moratorium of her own starting in March. The suit challenges the constitutionality of the moratoriums, and argues that rental property owners are being affected unfairly.

Ethan Blevins, a lawyer for Pacific Legal Foundation who is representing the landlords pro bono, remarked that the approach that state and local officials have taken to protect tenants affected by the virus has forced “landlords to shoulder the burden of the pandemic, rather than putting the burden on the public as a whole.”

Of course, eviction bans go far beyond Washington State. They’ve been implemented in many other states, and even on a federal level. The Trump administration’s eviction moratorium, announced by executive order back in August, has already taken effect.

As the Seattle Times reports, the federal moratorium is backed by the CDC and effectively makes it illegal for landlords across the country to evict tenants based on nonpayment of rent. Tenants must meet certain criteria to be covered under the moratorium, however, and disputes between landlords and tenants regarding whether the moratorium applies to them will likely land in local courts.

As all this unfolds, landlords and rental property owners continue to wait. Many are facing greatly reduced income, and others have seen their livelihoods disappear almost entirely. And while it’s certainly important to protect tenants who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, it can be hard to walk the line between doing what’s best for the renter and doing what’s best for the property owner. It can often feel like a lose-lose scenario.

If you’re a landlord looking for more information, contact us today to learn more about how professional property management can help your rental business in challenging times. From collecting rent and overseeing evictions to handling maintenance and marketing your property, we offer the tools to help your business grow and continue to succeed.

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