On June 2, 2020, Governor Inslee extended the State’s eviction moratorium as part of his office’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Most evictions in the State of Washington are prohibited until no sooner than August 1, 2020. That moratorium was extended, again, this week!
The actions that property owners can take are limited to very few situations, and there are requirements imposed on them to establish that those situations apply in a given case.
Initially, the Governor placed a temporary moratorium on evictions based on non-payment of rent on March 18, ordering that “residential landlords are prohibited from serving a notice of unlawful detainer for default payment or rent,” and prohibited “issuing a 20-day notice . . . related to such property” as well.
That initial order was scheduled to expire on April 17th.
Later on April 16, 2020, the Governor renewed and expanded that moratorium, prohibiting
a vast array of actions landlords ordinarily rely to enforce a tenant’s compliance with the terms of a their rental agreements. The moratorium prohibited the following actions:
- Serving, or threatening to serve, ANY eviction notice. This includes not only demands for rent payment, but termination notices (20 day notices) and notices demanding compliance with contract terms (10 day comply or vacate notices);
- Assessing late fees for any late rent payment after February 29, 2020;
- Assessing any rent if the tenant’s access to the property was prevented by the COVID-19 outbreak;
- Collecting unpaid rent as an enforceable debt, for any unpaid rent after February 29, unless the Landlord offers a re-payment plan that is reasonable based on the Tenant’s financial, health, and other circumstances; and
- Increasing rent, for any residential AND commercial property.
That order was drafted to expire on June 4, 2020; however, the governor extended the moratorium by proclamation before it expired. Now, the evictions moratorium remains in place until August 1, 2020.
However, the most recent proclamation did provide a new avenue for property owners to initiate evictions now in limited circumstances. There are currently two bases upon which a landlord can initiate a termination of a tenancy; those are 1) if the eviction is necessary to respond to a significant and immediate risk to health, safety, or property of others created by the tenant being evicted, or 2) if the landlord seeks to sell the property or occupy it themselves and sixty (60) days notices has been provided to the tenant.
Finally, the proclamation purports to limit a property owner’s ability to collect unpaid rent from the period between February 29, 2020 and August 1, 2020. Any rent that was not paid during that period cannot be collected upon as an enforceable debt, and cannot be the basis for a termination of tenancy under RCW 59.12 or 59.18. Attempts to collect unpaid rent are curtailed, as the proclamation bars “attempts to collect, or threats to collect, through a collection agency, by filing an unlawful detainer or other judicial action, withholding any portion of a security deposit, billing or invoicing, reporting to credit bureaus, or by any other means.”
What this means for landlords in the short term is that they are barred from taking any action, or even threatening to take an action that would begin the eviction process for any residential tenant. This includes non-payment of course, but also bars landlords from addressing violations of other terms of their rental contracts, unless those violations pose a significant and immediate risk to the health, safety, or property of other people.
Contact Althauser Rayan Abbarno
In uncertain times like these, with proclamations and orders being issued on a nearly daily basis, it is imperative that landlords, and tenants, rely on the advice of knowledgeable Landlord/Tenant attorneys.
If you have questions about the eviction process, or the emergency orders affecting tenancies, call our Althauser Rayan Abbarno Attorneys at (360) 736-1301 or visit www.CentraliaLaw.com