Seattle Passes Winter Eviction Moratorium

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, Industry Trends, WMFHA Updates,

Yesterday, by a 7-0 vote, the Seattle City Council passed a law that allows a tenant to say: “It’s winter. You can’t evict me.” The law applies to certain evictions between December 1 and March 1, every year. This is the first major action taken by the new Seattle City Council and forebodes a challenging legislative period ahead. 

The law applies to rental properties in the City of Seattle only.

Prior to the vote, WMFHA landed several stories calling into question the appropriateness of this policy and advocated for increases in rental assistance programs that are proven to be successful in keeping an individual housed. This messaging was carried forward by the Mayor and three Department heads, urging the council to work together to consider alternatives, like investments in rental housing. 

It is unclear what the Mayor will do with this legislation. She has three options: (1) sign the legislation (2) return the legislation unsigned to the council, or (3) veto the legislation. Under the first two options, the law would become effective 30 days after the Mayor’s action. If she vetoes the legislation, the council can override the veto with just 6 votes. 

Regardless of how the Mayor takes action on this bill, the law will not have an effect on rental housing in Seattle until December 2020. 

WMFHA is evaluating the most appropriate path forward on this and other potential pieces of legislation that may be considered by the council this year. 

Below are specifics on the eviction moratorium:

  • A tenant may raise a defense to an eviction that the eviction court action is occurring between December 1 and March 1 of each year. If the eviction hearing occurs during this time frame, the court can dismiss the eviction, stay the proceedings until March 1, or take some other action except enter an order evicting the tenant.
  • In order to exercise this defense, the tenant (household) must earn less than 100 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).
Household Size AMI
1 $76,000
2 $86,900
3 $97,750
4 $108,600
5 $117,300
6 $126,000
7 $134,650
8 $143,350
  • The law does not apply to properties/owners with 4 units or less.
  • The law permits an eviction regardless of the time of year for the following reasons:
    • The tenant’s conduct has a substantial detrimental impact on or constitutes an imminent threat to the health or safety of the other tenants or the owner.
    • The tenant fails to comply with a 3-day or 10-day notice for a drug-related activity nuisance, or maintenance of an unlawful business.
    • The tenant, or with consent a sub-tenant, or guest has engaged in criminal activity on the property or on the public right-of-way abutting the premises. Criminal activity means drug-related activity and other criminal activity that affects the health or safety of other tenants or the owner.
    • Removal of the unit from the market after receipt of a notice of violation.
    • The owner seeks to reduce the number of individuals residing in the rental unit to comply with maximum occupancy limits.
    • An emergency order exists requiring the unit(s) to be vacated. 
  • A mitigation fund is created to assist low-income tenants (80 percent AMI) renting an income-restricted or rent-restricted unit.  A housing provider must demonstrate –
    • An eviction was delayed
    • The tenant does not have the financial resources to pay the rent
    • The tenant resides in a unit that is income-restricted or rent-restricted
    • Agree the housing provider will not report the tenant’s delinquency to a credit reporting agency.
  • The mitigation fund is unfunded and may be funded in the 2021-2022 budget. If funded, funds would not be available until 2021. If the city provides funding to support the mitigation fund, all notices to terminate must include a statement on how a tenant can access the mitigation funds.    



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