Unincorporated King County Rental Protections

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, COVID-19 Resource Center,

The King County Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance creating additional protections in unlawful detainer proceedings for tenants of residential and commercial tenancies. The law passed 7-2A copy of the ordinance can be found here
The law applies to and affects properties in unincorporated King County only. You can learn more about unincorporated King County here. Unincorporated King County generally means properties located in Ames Lake, Baring, Boulevard Park, Bryn Mawr – Skyway, Cottage Lake, East Renton Highlands, Fairwood, Fall City, Greenwater, Hobart, Mirrormont, Ravensdale, Riverbend, Tanner, Union Hill-Novelty Hill area, Vashon, and White Center. 
Over the course of the prior month, we’ve worked with the County Council to amend this legislation and were successful in preventing the law from applying to all 10-day notices or comply or vacate and limited the extent of the repayment time period from September 1, 2021 to March 1, 2021. 
Details of the Law:
The law applies to all residential evictions and evictions from mobile home/manufactured housing by creating a defense to any eviction for nonpayment or habitual nonpayment of rent where three or more notices were issued in the prior 12 months.
In order to raise the defense, the tenant must provide one of the following COVID-19 related issues:

  1. Tenant’s illness
  2. Reduction in income
  3. Loss of employment
  4. Reduction in compensation for hours of work
  5. Business or office closure
  6. A need to miss work to care for a family member or child where care is uncompensated
  7. Or other similar loss

The law requires the court to “balance the equities and consider the material impacts” to the landlord and to the tenant. 
Late fees, interest or other charges are prohibited on the late payment of rent through March 1, 2021. 
The law permits the tenant to pay any rent arrears through March 1 2021, in a repayment plan if the failure to pay is due to one of the COVID1-9 related issues above. In any eviction based on nonpayment of rent through March 1, 2021, the landlord is required to show the tenant was offered, and refused or failed to comply with a repayment plan that was reasonable based on the individual financial, health and other circumstances of the tenant. Failure to provide a repayment plan is a defense to eviction. 
For tenants who have agreed to a repayment plan, the residential rental agreement cannot be terminated until the completion of the repayment plan, or if the tenant refused or failed to comply with a reasonable payment plan described above. However, this does not prevent a landlord from terminating the tenancy where the tenant’s behavior resulting in an imminent threat to the health and safety of other persons on the premises. 
Finally, the law prohibits any reprisal or retaliatory action against a tenant who exercises their rights under this ordinance and creates a presumption that if the reprisal or retaliatory action occurred within the repayment period or within 60 days after that is retaliatory. 
Commercial Tenants:
For small commercial tenants who fail to pay rent from March 1, 2020 through March 1, 2021, the tenant may elect to pay their overdue rent in a repayment plan, if the failure to pay rent was due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
A failure to provide a repayment plan by the landlord is a defense to an eviction. 
Late fees are prohibited from March 1, 2020 through March 1, 2021, if the failure to pay is COVID-19 related. 
“Small commercial tenants” means a business entity, including a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership or other legal entity, that:

  1. Is owned and operated independently from all other businesses. A franchisee with five or fewer franchise units shall be considered owned and operated independently from its franchisor;
  2. Has fifty or fewer employees per establishment or premises;
  3. Has either been forced to close due to an emergency order issued by the Governor or has gross receipts from the previous calendar month of 2020 that are less than seventy percent of its gross receipts for the same month in 2019; and
  4. Is neither a general sales and service business with ten or more establishments in operation located anywhere in the world nor an entertainment use business with five or more establishments in operation located anywhere in the world.