Published on April 7, 2020; Updated May 4, 2020
On March 18, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-19, which imposed a statewide moratorium on evictions in Washington. The proclamation is one of many recently handed down as a result of the recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak across the world. As many across the state have already experienced layoffs or reduced work hours due to the virus’ impact on business operations, the Governor expects many will struggle to pay rent and face eviction. Now that the Governor has extended the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Order, all residential evictions are prohibited until June 4, 2020.
Specifically, Proclamation 20-19 provides:
- Residential landlords are prohibited from serving a notice of unlawful detainer for default in the payment of rent under RCW 59.12.030(3);
- Residential landlords are prohibited from issuing a 20-day notice for unlawful detainer under RCW 59.12.030(2), unless the landlord attaches an affidavit attesting that the action is believed to be necessary to ensure the health and safety of the tenant or other individuals;
- Residential landlords are prohibited from seeking a writ of restitution involving a dwelling unit if the alleged basis for the writ is the tenant’s failure to timely pay rent; and
- Local law enforcement is prohibited from serving or otherwise acting on eviction orders issued solely for default in the payment of rent.
Evictions and law enforcement actions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, such as waste, nuisance, or the commission of a crime on the premises, are not prohibited.
In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a moratorium on residential evictions that also prohibits the accrual of late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent. Further, if a lease is expiring on its own terms while the moratorium is in effect, a landlord cannot evict the tenant if he or she holds over. The Seattle moratorium was recently extended until June 4, to match the statewide policy. Other municipalities across the state have implemented eviction moratoriums with additional timelines and renter protections, as well.
While Governor Inslee’s proclamation provides temporary relief for struggling renters, it is unclear what the financial consequences will be for parties in the long term. Tenants who have not paid their rent during this time will likely be responsible for back rent after the moratorium is lifted.
Landlords should be aware that, with court operations across the state drastically reduced, there may be a backlog of cases in the court system once the moratorium is lifted, and finding new tenants to replace ones who have been evicted may be difficult. A judicial eviction action may not be the most expedient solution to nonpayment of rent for many months to come.
With that in mind, landlords and tenants should start communicating with each other as soon as possible to explore solutions. Many banks are offering mortgage payment deferment options right now, and landlords may be able to take advantage of these as struggling tenants get back on their feet. Both parties should explore the possibility of a payment plan so that tenants are not burdened with an unreasonably large back rent payment once the eviction moratorium is lifted. All communications and agreements should be documented in writing.
If you are a landlord or tenant who needs help understanding the various eviction moratoriums in place for COVID-19, understanding your legal rights and obligations under a lease agreement, or negotiating rental payment solutions, please contact any member of our Real Estate, Development & Finance or Litigation groups at Ryan Swanson.
This webpage is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.