Bellingham Passes Tenant Protections

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News,

The City of Bellingham recently passed a law creating additional tenant protections for residents living in rental properties.  The law affects all multifamily rental properties within the city limits of Bellingham.  Click links below to learn more about each of the tenant protections passed by the City of Bellingham. 

  1. Source of income protections
  2. Increased notice for rent increases
  3. Increased notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy

All three parts of the law take effect March 13, 2018.  

A copy of the law can be found here.  

Source of Income Protections

The law makes it illegal to advertise exclusions to renting based on a person's source of income, and makes it illegal to refuse to rent to a person based on the applicant's intent to use an income other than employment wages to pay a portion of or all of the monthly rent. 

Source of income includes income derived from social security, supplemental security income, and other retirement programs, and any federal, state, local or nonprofit-administered benefit or subsidy programs.  

Any rent-to-income ratio calculations must exclude any subsidy or voucher payment.  When considering whether to include or exclude a particular source of income, consider whether the income is limited to payment of housing only, or whether the source of income can be used to pay for other things.  If the source of income is limited to payment of housing, it should be deducted from any rent-to-income ratio calculations.  

The law acknowledges that any health and safety inspection should be completed within 10 days of the unit being available for inspection.  Any refusal to to allow a health and safety inspection is a violation of the law.  

The State legislature passed a statewide source of income law.  The law is awaiting the Governor's signature.  To learn more about the new State law, read the Week 8 Legislative Report.  As written, statewide source of income protections become effective September 30, 2018.

Notice of Rent Increases

Any notice of rent increase that exceeds 10% of the current monthly rent, must be provided to the resident with at least 60 days' notice.  Rent increases less than 10% must be provided to the resident with at least 30 days' notice.  

The law defines 'rent' or 'housing costs' to include the basic rent charged and any other periodic or monthly fees paid by the resident to the housing provider, but does not include utility costs based on usage and defined in the rental agreement.  

Notice  to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy

In any month-to-month or periodic tenancy, the law creates an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer proceeding if the resident has not been provided 60 days' notice to terminate the tenancy.  The increased notice requirements do not apply to fixed term tenancies. 

The following legal notices are exempt from the law:

  • 3-day notice to pay or vacate,
  • 3-day notice of waste or nuisance,
  • 10-day notice to comply with the terms of a rental agreement, and
  • 20-day notice provided under federal or state guidelines for low income or affordable housing programs.