City of Burien Enacts Tenant Protections

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News,

On Monday, October 7, the City of Burien passed a bill creating a local rental housing code requiring "just cause" for termination of a tenancy, requiring distribution of information and notice of intent to sell low-income housing properties.  

The law takes effect on October 15, 2019, and applies to all rental properties in the City of Burien.  

The new law requires the following of property owners and managers: 

  • Requires property managers to distribute written rental criteria and a link to an informational website that provides information about rental properties in Burien. 
  • Requires property managers to distribute a packet of information (similar to the City of Seattle) to each tenant when it first becomes available, at the initiation of the tenancy, and annually thereafter. 
    • The city will have copies of the document available at City Hall, when available.
  • Requires property managers to provide a copy of a resource summary whenever a termination notice is served (14-day, 10-day, 20-day notice)
  • Provides the opportunity for tenants, upon the tenants' request, to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees and last month's rent in an installment schedule, not to exceed three months.  
    • Payments must be made in equal and consecutive monthly installments starting when the tenancy begins.
    • There are no limitations proposed on the number or type of move-in fees that can be charged. 
    • The installment plan is only available upon the request of the tenant, and not available when the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees are less than 25% of the first month's rent and last month's rent is not collected.  
    • This application fee (screening fee) is not considered a part of the move-in fees.
    • A tenant's failure to make installment payments is subject to a 10-day notice.  
  • Requires property managers to consider a request for a reasonable accommodation related to the service of a notice.
  • Requires property managers to provide 60-days notice of intent to sell a building to the city when apartment homes in the building rent for 80% or less of Area Median Income (AMI).  
    • In 2019, an apartment home is considered available to a low-income resident when the rental amount is below:
      • $1,520 for a studio apartment home
      • $1,737 for a one-bedroom apartment home
      • $1,953 for a two-bedroom apartment home
      • $2,172 for a three-bedroom apartment home
  • Implements just cause eviction requirements - requiring the property manager to include at least one of 17 identified in any notice to terminate. The just cause requirements mirror those in the City of Seattle. The most commonly used reasons for termination in multi-family properties are: 
    • The tenant fails to comply with a 14-day notice to pay rent or vacate
    • The tenant habitually fails to pay rent when due at least four times in a 12 month period
    • The tenant fails to comply with a 10-day notice to comply or vacate
    • The tenant habitually fails to comply with at least three 10-day notices in a 12-month period
    • The tenant's occupancy is conditioned on employment and the employment relationship has ended
    • The owner seeks to substantially rehabilitate the building, requiring at least one permit and provides at least 120 days' notice. The permit must be obtained prior to terminating the tenancy
    • The owner elects to demolish the building and provides at least 120 days' notice. The owner must obtain a permit to demolish the building.

The notice must specify at least one of the reasons identified in the law. A sample 20-day termination notice can be found here.  

While the law takes effect on October 15, the city will engage in soft enforcement for six months. However, any eviction action beginning in Burien will require the just cause requirements, or the case will risk being dismissed.