The Washington State eviction moratorium is set to expire at 11:59 pm on June 30th, 2021. With over 160,000 reported Washington households who have fallen behind on rent since the moratorium was originally put into place last March, many are anticipating a wave of eviction cases in the near future. In preparation for the influx of expected evictions, Washington State has taken steps to put new rules into effect of which all landlords and tenants should be aware.
On Thursday, April 22, 2021, Washington became the first state in the nation to ensure legal representation for low income families facing eviction. A tenant may qualify for this assistance if they are also receiving any of the following types of public assistance:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Aged, blind, or disabled assistance benefits
- Medical care services under RCW 09.035
- Pregnant women assistance benefits
- Poverty-related veterans’ benefits
- Food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically
- Refugee settlement benefits
- Supplemental security income
A tenant facing eviction may also qualify if their annual after-tax income is 200% or less of the federally established poverty level, which currently comes out to $25,760 for individuals, $34,840 for a couple, or $53,000 for a family of four, for example. A tenant who meets one or more of these qualifications will be eligible for free legal representation from a court appointed attorney to assist with their eviction case.
It is important to note, however, that this assistance will not be available right away. The Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid is responsible for actualizing this new legislation, and the Governor has asked that they draft a plan by July 21, 2021 to fully implement this program by April 22, 2022.
In the same recently-passed bill, SB 5160, which proposed this new resource for low income tenants, there is also a new requirement that landlords must meet before evicting any tenant on the basis of unpaid rent that accrued from March 1, 2020 through the six months following the expiration of the moratorium on evictions or the end of the public health emergency. Before a landlord can proceed with an eviction, they must first offer the tenant a reasonable repayment plan for the back-rent during that period. If the tenant does not accept the payment plan offer within two weeks or fails to make their payments, then the landlord may proceed with an eviction lawsuit.
Any repayment plan offered to tenants must:
- Not exceed one-third of the monthly rental charges during the period of accrued debt;
- Not require payment until 30 days after the offer is made;
- Cover rent only (not fees);
- Allow for payments from any source of income as allowed by RCW 59.18.255(5); and
- Not require the tenant to meet certain other conditions.
Limitless Law PLLC is available to help property owners seeking representation to understand their rights and options in this changing legal environment. You may contact our firm by calling (360) 685-0145.