Legislative Update Week 12

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, Articles, COVID-19 Resource Center,
A week from Monday, April 5, the legislature must pass policy legislation, or it is considered dead for this legislative session.   

Over the course of the past two weeks, WMFHA has been working diligently to remain at the negotiating table, instead of being placed on the menu. We’ve made substantial progress in negotiating the package of bills being considered the 'COVID rental housing recovery package’. In the world of politics and lawmaking we must make tough decisions in order to obtain the best results for our membership and the industry at large. 
Below are a few highlights of each of the bills we’ve been working on. These are still being negotiated and will not be final until they pass the legislature, and the Governor takes action on them.  
House Bill 1277 adds a $100 surcharge to the Document Recording Fee. The proceeds from this increase fund a permanent rental assistance program for households earning 80 percent or less of AMI, provides some operations and maintenance funding for permanently supportive housing, and adds an anticipated $12 million to the Landlord Mitigation Fund over the next two years. This is a substantial increase but, it is small in comparison to the impact the proceeds will have for housing providers and the greater community. 

  • WMFHA successfully doubled the percentage of funds directed towards the Landlord Mitigation Fund during the House Appropriations Committee.  

Senate Bill 5160 will provide a gradual off ramp to the eviction moratorium. Temporary protections now extend for six months after the end of the eviction moratorium and housing providers will be permitted to recover up to $15,000 from the Landlord Mitigation Fund where the tenant has voluntarily vacated the unit with a rental balance owing or if they default on a repayment agreement. The bill also creates a defined reasonable repayment schedule to provide tenants when they are unable to pay their rent.  

  • WMFHA’s careful negotiations brought this legislation to a good place that is reasonable and workable for all rental housing providers in Washington state.  

House Bill 1236 would require just cause eviction to terminate a tenancy. Initially this bill applied to all tenancies and repealed and prohibited the use of all fixed term tenancies (tenancies for a specified period of time). It would have also made addressing common lease violations difficult to manage and enforce.  

  • WMFHA successfully negotiated a probation period for periodic tenancies and worked with stakeholders and lawmakers to preserve the fixed term tenancy.  

None of these proposals have been voted on by the opposite chamber to date but we are confident these bills, as a package, provides a reasonable off ramp to the eviction moratorium and the beginning of a return to normalcy.