The Seattle City Council earlier this week unanimously voted to ban winter evictions during the coldest months of the year.
What this means:
The mayor still needs to sign this into law, or let it become law without her signature. In either case, this will prohibit residential evictions anytime between December 1 and March 1, with some exceptions such as for tenants who engage in criminal activity, or for owner-occupied residences and other small landlords.
Seattle’s law is one of the first of it’s kind in the United States. Some jurisdictions restrict evictions based on bad weather, but no other cities have a ban of this time period.
The ban on evictions applies to tenants who fail to pay rent on time or violate certain lease terms. While a landlord could file an eviction notice during this time, a tenant can file a defense in court citing this regulation and remain in their home through the winter.
Tenants are required to pay rent during the winter months, though late fees can still be assessed and debt can accrue. Should a tenant fail to pay rent on December 1 and continue to be delinquent, the earliest they could be evicted is March 1. Therefore, the property owner could potentially lose a minimum of 3 months of rental income.
Winter evictions ban – arguments for and against:
Proponents of the ban believe winter-time evictions are cruel, dangerous and disproportionately affect women and people of color.
According to a 2018 study by Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project, 51% of Seattle tenants involved in eviction filings were people of color. Of those evicted, 88% became homeless.
Critics argue that landlords could miss mortgage payments themselves and incur increasing debt of their own.
Landlords also argue that recent new rental rules like this and the First in Time law result in stricter rental criteria and less flexibility to accept tenants who might not otherwise qualify. Many property owners are considering selling their properties to developers and leaving the business altogether.
Under Seattle’s current tenant protection laws, landlords must give tenants two weeks notice to pay rent or relocate. They must also provide 60 days notice for any rent increase.
The mayor has come out in opposition of this legislation and can still opt to veto. However, the council can override it with just 6 of the 7 who voted for it originally.
What you can do:
We at Landlord Gurus believe landlords can best navigate new regulations such as this by creating a thorough rental criteria checklist along with the use of a credit screening service. Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do!
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