PORT ORCHARD — On June 24, Gov. Jay Inslee extended the emergency ban on evictions of Washington state tenants through Sept. 30 because of the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The existing moratorium was to expire on June 30. An estimated 195,000 renters in the state are behind on their rent, according to a Census Bureau survey conducted in late May and early June. The Seattle Times reported that, according to state officials, tenants have accumulated about $1.1 to $1.2 billion in accumulated rent debt between Feb. 29, 2020, and July 31 of this year — or about $110 million each month.
The extended moratorium has prohibited landlords from evicting tenants who have accrued past-due rent that’s been unpaid during the pandemic until rental assistance and eviction-resolution programs are operating in their county.
While the pandemic has placed hundreds of thousands of renters in jeopardy, it also has put thousands of landlords in a financial jam.
At the governor’s news conference on June 24, Inslee said, “We don’t want to have success reopening our businesses, and then see a wave of homelessness.”
But state Rep. Michelle Caldier, 26th Legislative District Republican, was unhappy with the governor’s action. Caldier said Inslee’s extension goes against a bipartisan group of legislators, stakeholders and the public who hammered out a bill establishing June 30 as the end of the eviction moratorium.
Caldier, the ranking Republican member of the Housing Human Services and Veterans Committee, sponsored the amendment to end the moratorium that was approved earlier. She said the governor’s decision is an example of Inslee’s lack of concern for public input.
“Tribal leaders recently called Gov. Inslee a snake when he vetoed a consent measure from a climate bill,” Caldier said. “As I hear from more and more rental providers across the state, many dependent on these investments for their retirement income, I agree with the Tribes. Inslee has yet again broken faith with the Legislature and the public.”
Caldier said the presumption that past-due tenants would be evicted on July 1 was false. “Property owners cannot evict a tenant until they have completed all the steps outlined in Senate Bill 5160,” she said. “This is simply another case of the governor catering to a vocal minority in his political party.”
She said after Inslee vetoed an amendment that would ensure rental assistance was available until tenant protection programs were fully implemented, the governor signed SB5160 into law in April.
“The extension two months later essentially reverses his previous approval on the moratorium’s end date.
“The governor’s use of his emergency powers — another unilateral decision that bypasses the Legislature — is incredibly distasteful.”
The state representative said legislators crafted a “compassionate end to the eviction moratorium” that included onetime federal support funding for tenants.
“If we wait any longer, tenants will face even bigger financial challenges without adequate support, and so will housing providers. Many of these providers are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in arrears, and financial assistance programs will not adequately cover their expenses if the moratorium continues much longer.”
Under the new extension, landlords must offer their tenants a repayment plan before they can begin the eviction process.