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‘Just cause,’ other transformative tenant protections approved by Council

Summary

The King County Council on Tuesday approved a transformative tenant protections package headlined by capped move-in fees and new ‘just cause’ eviction criteria.

Story

The King County Council on Tuesday approved a transformative tenant protections package headlined by capped move-in fees and new ‘just cause’ eviction criteria.

“We’ve heard clearly from advocates, renters, experts, and community members that unless we do something, King County will likely face a wave of evictions as the economy recovers and COVID era renter protections are gradually lifted. While Gov. Inslee has extended the statewide eviction moratorium, it’s a temporary fix, not a long-term solution to the challenges that renters face in securing and maintaining safe and affordable housing in this region,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who, along with Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay and Dave Upthegrove, sponsored the legislation. “The legislation that passed today is a powerful and fair tenant protections package that will keep individuals and families in unincorporated King County housed and stable, while respecting landlords’ rights to collect rent and impose fair evictions when needed.”

Key among the protections included is the establishment of “just causes” that must be satisfied before a landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy, begin eviction proceedings, or fail to renew a fixed-term tenancy. Under newly passed legislation, state law now requires property owners to provide cause for evictions, that law falls well short of the King County proposal.

In addition to adding the just cause requirement – a significant factor in avoiding a wave of individuals and families losing their housing once temporary protections triggered by the COVID -19 pandemic end – the proposal would add a series of protections for tenants in unincorporated King County, including:

  • Cap move-in, security and other fees and deposits and allow incremental payment
  • Require landlords to give up to 4 months’ notice for significant rent increases
  • Prohibit rent hikes in unsafe or unlivable housing
  • Allow tenants to adjust rent due date if they live on fixed income
  • Add protections against eviction over late rent
  • Prohibit landlords from requiring Social Security number for pre-rental screening

Landlords who violate any of the new protections would be liable for damages in court.

In 2019, unincorporated King County saw more no-cause evictions than any other jurisdiction in King County, according to data shared by Edmund Witter, senior managing attorney with the King County Bar Association. While only 6.8% of all evictions were filed in unincorporated King County, that part of the county made up 20% of all no-cause evictions countywide.

An estimated 22% of households in unincorporated King County are renters, which means about 25,000 households will be impacted by the legislation.

As part of the new legislation, the Executive will create an outreach plan to educate residents about the new protections and set up a central phone number for tenants to report suspected violations.

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