City of Seattle Law Update

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, COVID-19 Resource Center,
On Monday June 7, the Seattle City Council passed a suite of laws further restricting evictions. The below quote from SCCInsight provides great insight into how the Council is proceeding on lawmaking.  

"The Councilmembers are clearly in a rush to get tenant protections in place before the eviction moratorium might lift at the end of the month. It is, notable, however, that in doing so they have chosen to ignore the legal advice from their own attorneys and push through ordinances that on shaky legal footing. It’s also notable that both Pedersen and Juarez have broken the unspoken covenant and for once let it be known that the city attorneys told the Council that the bills they were passing were probably illegal.” – SCCInsight  

The following is a summary of recently passed legislation in the city of Seattle. These laws, affect properties located in the city of Seattle only and will become effective 30 days after the signature by the Mayor or 30 days after its return from the Mayor.
Resolution 31998: The resolution urges Governor Inslee to issue a new proclamation that is substantively similar to the existing Proclamation and urges Mayor Jenny Durkan to extend the moratorium on evictions through the end of 2021. The resolution passed 7-0. This is not law, but it is the intent of the Council to have the Mayor extend the moratorium.
Council bill 120046 provides a defense to eviction for children, their families and educators during the school year. The Council passed this bill 6-1, Pedersen voting no.

  • Provides a defense to eviction when the eviction would require the tenant/household to vacate the housing unit during the school year; and 
  • The tenant is one of the following: 
    • A child or student (means any person under the age of 18 or enrolled in a school). “School” means any childcare, early childhood education and assistance program, or head start facility, and any public, private, or parochial institution that provides educational instruction in any or all of the grades and age groups up to and including twelfth grade; 
    • A person having legal custody of a child or student; or
    • An educator. An “educator” is any person that works at a school in Seattle as an employee or independent contractor or its governing body, including but not limited to all teachers, substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, substitute paraprofessionals, administrators, administrative staff, counselors, social workers, psychologists, school nurses, speech pathologists, custodians, cafeteria workers, and maintenance workers.
  • Exceptions to the eviction defense include – 
    • The tenant fails to comply with a 10-day notice to comply or vacate that requires compliance with a material term of the rental agreement or that requires compliance with a material obligation under chapter 59.18 RCW. 
    • The owner seeks to discontinue use of a housing unit unauthorized by Title 23 after receipt of a notice of violation.
    • The owner seeks to reduce the number of individuals residing in a dwelling unit to comply with the maximum limit of individuals allowed to occupy one dwelling unit.
    • The owner seeks to reduce the number of individuals who reside in one dwelling unit to comply with the legal limit after receipt of a notice of violation.
    • The owner seeks to discontinue use of an accessory dwelling unit for which a permit has been obtained pursuant to Sections 23.44.041 and 23.45.545 after receipt of a notice of violation.
    • An emergency order requiring that the housing unit be vacated and closed.
    • The owner seeks to discontinue sharing with a tenant of the owner's own housing.
    • A tenant, or with the consent of the tenant, the tenant's subtenant, sublessee, resident, or guest, has engaged in criminal activity on the premises, or on the property or public right-of-way abutting the premises.

Council bill 120077 extends the defense to eviction rent that accrued during the state of emergency. The Council passed this bill 5-2, Pedersen and Juarez voting no.

  • It is a defense to eviction if the tenant fails to pay rent during the civil emergency, and the tenant suffers a financial hardship during the civil emergency and the tenant fails to comply with the 14-day notice or the basis of termination is that the tenant habitually fails to pay rent four or more times in a 12-month period. 
  • The tenant must submit a declaration of self-certification asserting their financial hardship.
  • The 14-day notice must include the following - “If you cannot pay rent due during the civil emergency proclaimed by Mayor Durkan on March 3, 2020, your inability to pay is a defense to eviction that you may raise in court.” This is in addition to similar language required by a previous law passed in May 2020, permitting the same defense for 6 months following the end of the moratorium.

Council bill 120090 provides tenant a right of first refusal of a new tenancy after expiration of a rental agreement and requires just cause to terminate when right of first refusal is not provided, Pedersen and Juarez voting no.

  • Requires the landlord to offer a new tenancy on reasonable terms for the same unit when the tenancy is a tenancy for a specified time. The offer must be made 60-90 days prior to the expiration of the existing tenancy. 
    • Permits an agreement more than 90 days before expiration where the new rental agreement starts on the day following expiration of the existing rental agreement.
  • The “proposed rental agreement” must be provided to the tenant by hand delivery, delivery to a person of suitable age and mailing, or by posting and mailing. 
  • The must have 30 days to consider it.
  • There is a rebuttable presumption the offer of renewal was not reasonable where the tenant declined the offer and within 30 days the unit is listed on materially favorable terms.
  • Requires the tenant to provide 60 days’ notice to terminate. 
  • Requires the landlord to provide just cause to terminate a lease and provides between 60- and 90-days’ notice. 
  • Ironically under state law a lease for a specified time a fixed term lease that does not convert to month-to-month at the end of the term.
  • Creates private right of action by the tenant against the landlord fur three months’ rent under the expired rental agreement, cost of suit and reasonable attorney fees. 

The bill also permits a tenant to rescind a mutual termination agreement within 10 business days after signing the agreement by providing a written notice of rescission or more than 10 business days after signing the agreement if the tenant signed the agreement without representation by an attorney.