Seattle Requires Payment Plans and Prevents Eviction History

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, Articles, COVID-19 Resource Center,
On May 11, 2020, the Seattle City Council passed two more bills affecting the landlord-tenant relationship. The laws become effective immediately upon the Mayor's signature. Each bill is described below. 

The law applies to properties located in the city of Seattle only. 

These laws, on top of the extension of the eviction moratorium last week, and the 24 other landlord-tenant laws passed in the prior four years compound and disproportionately require rental property owners to bear a public burden. This is on top of the already difficult job of managing multifamily communities and puts further pressure on small owners and operators to remove their units from the rental market. 

Installment Payment Plans

  • A tenant who fails to pay rent during or within six months after the termination of the city's civil emergency, may pay the overdue rent in installments. Overdue rent of one month or less can be paid in three consecutive and equal monthly installments; overdue rent of two months or less can be paid in five consecutive and equal monthly installments; and overdue rent of two or more months can be paid in six consecutive equal monthly installments.
  • Payment plans must be in writing and signed by the tenant and the landlord.
  • Late fees, interest or other charge due to late payment cannot accrue during or within one year after the termination of the city's civil emergency.
  • All 14-day notices to pay or vacate must include the following statement “City law entitles you to pay overdue rent in installments. If your landlord does not accept payment according to the installment schedule, you may raise this as a defense to eviction in court.”
  • It is a defense to eviction if the 14-day notice does not include the above statement and if the property manager refuses to accept a payment under an installment schedule described above. 

WMFHA worked with the sponsor of the bill to limit the breadth of the payment plan provisions of this ordinance to six months. The original bill allowed for repayment up to one year but were unable to measure all provisions of the bill.  

Eviction history moratorium

  • A landlord may not consider or take adverse action against a tenant based on their eviction history that occurred during or within the six months after the end of the city's civil emergency unless the eviction is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant or landlord's household members. 
  • There exists a rebuttable presumption that if the information appears in a screening report that any adverse action was taken on the basis of that eviction history. 
  • The law provides that any eviction, except evictions due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant or landlord's household members, are considered good cause for an Order of Limited Dissemination. 
  • The law requires an additional statement in the screening criteria that landlords are prohibited from taking adverse action based on an eviction that occurred during or within the six months following the city of Seattle's State of Civil Emergency. 

Layered on top of the eviction moratorium related to nonpayment of rent passed last week, this law adds to the cumulative effect of the city's continuing impairment of rental agreements and expectation that rental property owners disproportionately bear what is a public burden. 

We need real solutions to assist tenants in this unprecedented time, primarily accessible rental assistance that provides relief to renters and allows rental property owners the ability to continue paying their regular operating expenses. 

Also today, Congress introduced a bill that could create a broad and uniform moratorium on evictions for nonpayment for one year. 

If you have questions about this law, or the others that are proposed, please contact Brett Waller.