Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday issued a housing stability “bridge” emergency order, Proclamation 21-09, which he said is intended to bridge the operational gap between the eviction moratorium (which will expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 30) enacted by prior proclamations and the protections and programs subsequently enacted by the Washington State Legislature.
The bridge, which was initially announced last week, will also reduce uncertainty as the state implements post-COVID long-term housing recovery strategies contained in legislative enactments such as SB 5160. The bill, passed by the Legislature earlier this year, creates new tenant protections, provides legal representation for indigent tenants in eviction cases, establishes an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases statewide, and creates rental assistance programs.
“COVID has created a significant economic impact on our state and many Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships,” Inslee said. “This bridge creates reasonable steps that will help ensure that renters have the opportunity to receive support and resources available to them and that the Legislature intended to be in place to help both landlords and tenants.”
Recent legislative actions include appropriating an additional $650 million for landlord and tenant rental assistance and also establishing certain programs, like the eviction resolution pilot program, which were intended to be in place after the eviction moratorium ends. However, the funding has not yet been disbursed and these programs are not yet operational statewide.
In response to this unintended gap, Inslee’s proclamation requires, among other things, that:
- Landlords and tenants avail themselves of rental assistance and eviction resolution pilot programs pursuant to SB 5160 to resolve any COVID-related past due rent (Feb. 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021);
- Tenants take steps to pay rent or avail themselves of rental assistance in order to pay future rent (beginning Aug. 1, 2021 throughout the effective dates of this order);
- For any tenant who is or becomes in arrears, landlords offer a reasonable repayment plan to tenants per SB 5160; and
- Tenants respond to notice of funding and other available programs within the timeframes established by SB 5160.
In short, an eviction for non-payment of past-due rent is not permitted until such time as the resources and programs established by the Legislature are in place and operational, and eviction for non-payment of future rent (Aug. 1, 2021 through Sept.30, 2021) is not permitted if the tenant has demonstrably taken action to pay rent, Inslee said. Evictions for other reasons allowed under state law are permitted.
In addition, although late fees are prohibited, rent increases are permitted as provided under state law.
Finally, the non-traditional and other transient housing previously covered by the eviction moratorium are not included in this order, including hotels/motels, Airbnbs, and camping areas.
The governor’s order is effective July 1, 2021 and remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2021.