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Washington Landlord/Tenant Law Update – January 2021

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Managing a rental property on your own is never an easy task. Screening tenants, collecting rent, notices, inspections, maintenance, move-outs…all while maintaining a personal life and career. But what happens when a global pandemic shuts down businesses, lays off millions of workers, and new regulations are put into place? How are landlords supposed to react?

This is what TMG Property Management Services did.

Eviction Moratoriums

Governor Inslee has released several Proclamations for landlords due to the pandemic since mid-March (see our previous post here). Most recently, he has introduced Proclamation 20-19.5 (the fifth such Proclamation since March) which set to end on January 4, 2021, and was just extended to March 31, 2021. A national eviction moratorium set by the CDC was introduced on September 1, 2020 (click here to learn more).

Key Takeaways from Washington State’s Moratorium

  • Tenants who are not impacted by COVID-19 should and must continue to pay rent to avoid unnecessary and avoidable economic hardship to landlords, property owners, and property managers who are economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (It is important to note that tenants who choose not to pay are still protected under this proclamation and are not able to suffer the repercussions of non-payment until the end of the moratorium.)
  • Proof of COVID-19 impact is not required; tenants can inform landlords in writing.
  • No evictions are legal in the state of Washington due to non-payment of rent under this proclamation.
  • No issuance of notices is allowed that threaten to evict or require a tenant to vacate if they do a violation or pay monies owed. Severe and costly penalties could be incurred for landlords who choose to issue these notices.
  • Landlords are prohibited from assessing or threatening to assess late fees or fees owed for the non-payment of rent or other charges after February 29, 2020, including lease termination fees.
  • Landlords are prohibited from attempting to withhold any portion of a security deposit for the payment of rent or fees owed.
  • If a “health and safety risk” is at play, the violation must be so serious that it not only impacts the health and safety of the tenancy in question, but typically other properties or tenants
  • If a 10-day notice of violation is required due to a health and safety risk, it must be approved by our legal team and served with an affidavit signed by the agent to confirm that the health and safety risk is so great that it would call for eviction. (Note: many of the courts will still not hear these cases due to the pandemic and economic crisis that lack of housing imposes on society.)
  • Collections may not be filed on those impacted by COVID-19.
  • Rent increases are strictly prohibited statewide; this includes any increase of utility cost as that counts as rent.
  • Agent/owner may serve an End of Tenancy Notice for an owner who intends to occupy the property as their personal residence or sell the property. A 60-day notice is required and it must include an affidavit signed under penalty of perjury.
  • Prohibitions of treating unpaid rent or other charges as an enforceable debt do not apply to landlords who can prove with compelling evidence that the resident was offered and refused or failed to comply with a reasonable repayment plan based on health, financial, or other circumstances.
  • Landlords may still engage in usual conversations regarding when to expect payment and offering reasonable repayment plans based on residents' current income.
  • It is permissible for landlords, property owners and property managers to provide information to residents regarding financial resources, including coordinating with residents in applying for rent assistance through the state's Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) or an alternative state rent assistance program.
  • Advance notice of rent increases are exempt from the moratorium ban on notices of rent increase for executed leases containing specific language spelling out the terms for future rent increases going into effect after the end of the moratorium. Notices of rent increase may not take effect until after the expiration of Proclamation 20-19.5 or any extension of it. It cannot contain threatening or coercive language and cannot be used to threaten eviction or describe any unpaid rent or other charges.

How TMG Adapted

TMG’s fiduciary responsibility to maintain our client’s rental assets and collect rent from our residents is our top priority. With that comes the importance of acknowledging the severity of the pandemic’s distress on our residents and exploring all assistance available to both clients and tenants.

In March, we began personally contacting every delinquent tenant to understand how they have been affected. Our expert Property Management Team is empathetic with tenants’ situations, which has encouraged residents to respond and make payments as they can. TMG has followed up and tracked tenants' responses, payments, and progress, with regular communication with our clients.

TMG also chose to be proactive by researching and collaborating with multiple organizations and assistance programs that could provide relief to our renters who qualified and to secure payments for our clients.

As of January 6, 2021, TMG’s single-family delinquency rate in Washington is 1.85% and Oregon is 2.56% - compared to the national rate of 25.6% according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Weekly Rent Payment Tracker.

What’s Next?

Navigating the “new normal” as a property management company has not been an easy task.

There's a reason so many investors have chosen TMG to manage their rental properties. We are the region’s leading property management experts. We are in your corner and we’re ready to help you navigate all the changes 2020 has brought to the rental industry. Schedule an appointment online or fill out the form below to speak to a property management specialist and learn how we can help you.

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Michelle Villarma

Property Management Specialist
Oregon and Washington
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