Residential-Landlord Tenant Act. The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) regulates the creation of residential tenancies and the relationship between landlords and tenants of residential dwelling units. The RLTA establishes rights and duties of both tenants and landlords, procedures for the parties to enforce their rights, and remedies for violations of the RLTA.
Except for rental agreements governing subsidized tenancies, a landlord must provide each affected tenant a minimum of 60 days prior written notice of an increase in the amount of rent, and any rent increase may not become effective before the end of the term of the rental agreement. For subsidized tenancies where the rental amount is based on the income of the tenant or circumstances specific to the subsidized household, the landlord must provide 30 days prior notice of the rent increase and the rent increase may become effective at the end of the rental term or sooner upon mutual consent.
Governor's Eviction Moratorium—Proclamation 20-19.5. On March 18, 2020, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-19 to prohibit a number of activities related to residential evictions by all residential landlords operating residential rental property in the state. Since then, the Governor has issued multiple extensions of the eviction moratorium with the current variation, Proclamation 20-19.5, set to expire March 31, 2021.
Currently, the eviction moratorium prohibits landlords, property owners, and property managers from increasing, or threatening to increase, the rate of rent for any dwelling or parcel of land occupied as a dwelling, except when the landlord, property owner, or property manager provides:
A landlord may not increase any monthly rent or other charges for the first six months after expiration of the Governor's eviction moratorium.
For a six-month period after the initial six-month prohibition period, a landlord may not increase the monthly rent more than three percentage points above the previous year's United States consumer price index for all urban consumers, housing component. Any rent increase imposed during this time period must be based on the base monthly rent in effect as of March 1, 2020.
PRO: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit struggling renters hard, and the Legislature must provide necessary relief. Although the eviction moratorium provided a first step, this bill is part of next steps to help renters catch their breath and not get priced out of their homes. The economy is still in a recession with 75,000 renters still behind in rent and some using unsustainable means to pay rent, like savings and credit cards. Any early rent increase in spring will lead to more economic evictions. Rental assistance programs will be impacted if rents increase. Renters were already struggling before the pandemic and the financial stakes between landlords and tenants are not equal. Landlords have mortgage forbearance or sale options that are not available to renters. The rent increase proposal is temporary only. Possible evictions from rent increases will lead to homelessness and exacerbated mental health issues/crises, plus additional COVID-19 exposure risks. Rent gouging is a weapon against poor people. It is cheaper to displace tenants through rent increases rather than evictions. No cause terminations are often used in order to increase rents for the next tenant. It will take at least another year for some tenants to recover from the pandemic. Rental assistance is also a key resource for renters, but hard to access in some parts of the state. Renters who are women or BIPOC are getting hit the hardest, and they have less homeownership opportunities. Housing instability is impacting students' mental health, especially with some choosing work over attending school in order to pay rent. The bill will provide a short-term lifeline for students. End of lease terminations are still occurring despite the eviction moratorium.
CON: Over 90 percent of rent paid contributes to the operations and maintenance costs of affordable rental housing providers. New units could not be provided in the affordable housing market, or preservation of older units, if rental growth is impeded. Traditional affordable housing investors will become disinterested if rental growth is hampered. The bill fails to solve the lack of housing inventory, and the state needs 10,000 units every year to meet demand. The bill is asking housing providers to financially support their tenants. Rental assistance and housing stock incentives are the real solutions. Property taxes and repair costs have gone up for most landlords during the eviction moratorium period, with rental revenue down significantly. The percentage of elective non-payers have doubled over time and rents have dropped by 20 percent in some areas. Some landlords have been skipping scheduled maintenance. Smaller landlords are enduring increased utility costs and vacancies, with some going into foreclosure and bankruptcy. Smaller landlords might break even on rental debt owed if forced to sell, and mortgage forbearance impacts smaller landlords since it leads to bad credit. Some property management staff have been denied cost of living salary increases. Smaller landlords are taking on deficits while trying to manage insurance policy payments. Some landlords still have to dig out from mortgage forbearance holes
OTHER: Short-term benefits of rent control are outweighed by longer-term damage to the housing market. The proposal to limit rent increases is not supported by the current real estate market, does not target benefits to those renters most in need, and does not address the disproportionately of rent-burdened individuals using 50 percent of income to pay rent. Targeted means-tested financial supports are the most direct and impactful methods to support economically distressed renters.