Legislative Update 2020: Week 1

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, Industry Trends,

Washington's 66th Biennium resumed this week in Olympia. Washington’s legislative cycle is two years long, with sessions lasting 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even. 2020 is, therefore, a short session expected to end March 12. The first policy cut off is February 7. 

In the House, Democrats lead 57-41. In the Senate, Democrats lead 28-21. A number of moderate legislators who were known to cross the aisle and join with the other party lost in November of 2018, leaving the 66th Biennium with more deeply divided chambers leaning strongly to the left. 

Friday marked the first hearing on a landlord-tenant related bill. Senate Bill 6378 aims to fix technical issues that arose after the enactment of Senate Bill 5600 last year. However, the bill also includes many substantive changes to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and rolls backs negotiated and agreed on issues. We are actively working with stakeholders to address our concerns, and at this time we remain opposed to this legislation. 

On Friday, January 24, the House will hold hearings on three different bills addressing the landlord-tenant relationship. 

  • First, a bill that would enact good cause requirements to terminate a tenancy statewide. Currently, only three cities have good cause requirements. 
  • Second, a bill that would add onerous requirements to the move-in checklist and add additional operational burdens when returning the security deposit and statement of deductions. 
  • Third, a bill that would require at least 5 days' grace period before late fees can be assessed.  

We are currently opposed to all three of these pieces of legislation. Stay tuned early this week for a Call to Action on these proposals.  We need your voice to assist in advocating on behalf of the industry.

Additionally, a proposal was introduced to categorically eliminate the use of criminal history in tenant screening. We are opposed to this legislation as well.  

On Friday, Rep. Riccelli, Rep. Orwall, Rep. Barkis, and Rep. Mossbrucker introduced legislation to expand access to the Landlord Mitigation Fund when a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or unlawful harassment exercises their rights under the law to terminate their tenancy. We're excited about this proactive piece of legislation and look forward to assisting in moving this bill forward this session.  

As you know, Washington is way behind in providing sufficient housing options for all the people that call the state home. In addition to the above, we are actively following a number of proposals to assist in the creation of affordable housing. Later this week, we will post a blog about these proposals, if you're curious about these different proposals.  

If all this weren't enough, on Thursday, January 23, beginning at 5:30 pm, Councilmember Sawant will hold a hearing on her legislation in Seattle to prevent a termination of the tenancy between November 1 and March 31 (Eviction moratorium). This misguided policy is bad for landlords and tenants and the opportunity to provide affordable housing when we desperately need it most.  

If you have questions, please contact Brett Waller by email or at 425.656.9077.