Just Cause Evictions

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, COVID-19 Resource Center,
This is part 3 of the legislative update, focusing specifically on the just cause eviction legislation that was passed this year. 

First, it is important to note that while these laws have passed, the statewide eviction moratorium remains in full force and effect. We are clarifying with the state the operation of the eviction moratorium and these laws as they pertain to the operations of your rental housing.  
For the past four years tenant advocates have proposed statewide just cause eviction.  Over that time, we have been able to defeat attempts to implement a policy. Practically speaking it's because just cause eviction policies pit neighbor against neighbor and favor negative behavior over positive neighborly behavior. We’ve seen this more than ever over the past 14 months and the effect it has on the majority of residents in rental communities.  
Senate Bill 5160 originally included language that effectively extended the eviction moratorium for two years past the public health emergency, handcuffing a property manager’s ability to effectively manage the rental property. We also heard from legislative leadership that some sort of protections would be necessary coming away from the moratorium. 
As we continued to pursue the most appropriate path forward, we saw local jurisdictions consider and/or implement their own just cause eviction policies, creating an unworkable patchwork of different policies across the state. In Edmonds, Burien, Kirkland, Issaquah, Federal Way, Auburn, Tacoma, and Spokane, just cause policies are popping up everywhere. One statewide policy creates better alignment across multiple jurisdictions for all parties involved in the process of terminating a tenancy. 
Therefore, beginning this year, housing providers will need to provide a reason in order to terminate a tenancy under specific time frames. 

Summary of changes to the law:

Specified Time Lease. A lease agreement which contains a defined ending date. (e.g. This lease will begin on July 1, 2021 and end June 30, 2022.) 

  • Permits a specified term lease type where the initial term is at least 12 months and any subsequent term is at least 6 months.
  • Requires at least 60 days advance notice prior to the ending date.
  • Does not require just cause to terminate. 
  • A month-to-month lease cannot convert to a lease of a specified term, except from enactment of this law to 90 days following the end of the eviction moratorium. 

Periodic term lease. A lease for a period of time that automatically converts to month-to-month at the end of the initial term. Also, a month-to-month lease. 

  • Requires one of 16 reasons to terminate a tenancy in all cases where the tenancy is month-to-month.
  • Creates an exception where just cause does not apply where the initial term of the lease is between six and 12 months and permits termination without cause upon 60 days’ notice

Causes to terminate a tenancy:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Substantial breach of a material program requirement of subsidized housing, material term of the lease or obligation of law (10-day notice)
  • Three days’ to quit or waste or nuisance or other substantial or repeated and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the premises
  • Owner or immediate family occupancy provided the housing provider gives at least 90 days’ notice
  • Sale of single-family residence provided the housing provider gives at least 90 days’ notice
  • Substantial rehabilitation, demolition or change of use
  • Condo conversion
  • Condemned premises
  • Termination of shared unit with a common kitchen or bathroom
  • Expiration of a transitional housing program 
  • Tenant continues in possession after having received at least 30 days’ advance written notice and the tenant refused to accept the agreement
  • 30 days’ notice of intentional, knowing and material misrepresentation that would have caused the landlord to take adverse action
  • Other good cause constituting a business or economic reason
  • Tenant has received four or more (10-day) notices in a 12 month period constituting a substantial breach of a material program requirement, a substantial break of a material term of the rental agreement or substantial breach of an obligation imposed by law
  • 60 days’ notice where tenant is required to register as a sex offender or fails to disclose a requirement to register as a sex offender
  • 20 days’ notice where tenant makes unwanted sexual advances or other acts of sexual harassment
  • Where the tenant has vacated and occupants remain, they may assume the lease provided they have resided in the unit for six months prior to the tenant permanently vacating and commence and application within 30 days of notice by the landlord. 
  • All notices must be served in accordance with 59.12.040
    • Personal delivery to a person of reasonable age
    • Post and mail
  • Penalties are two times the monthly rent 
Property managers in the following cities must continue to comply with local just cause eviction laws. 
  • City of Seattle
  • City of Burien
  • City of Federal Way
  • City of Auburn

In addition, occupants may assume the balance of a lease agreement where the rent-responsible tenant permanently vacates the unit provided the occupants have resided in the unit for at least six months, the housing provider has provided notice to the occupants, and the occupants commence an application within 30 days.