Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he is extending many eviction protections until September, but tenant and housing advocates are concerned that changes to the moratorium are confusing and could lead to a false sense of security.
The moratorium has protected tenants from most eviction and rent increases since March 2020. The governor’s actions extends some of those protections. For example, tenants can’t be evicted if rental assistance and an eviction resolution program are not set up in their county.
“I think these are reasonable steps to provide a bridge to the fully functioning programs the legislator fashioned. They're fair both to tenants and landlords both have had economic difficulty during this period of time," the governor said.
People behind on pandemic rent working with landlords on a resolution or with rental assistance still have protections until the end of September. People who are not paying rent or who are also not seeking rental assistance or legal resolution can be evicted beginning in August.
Terry Anderson, the executive director of the Spokane branch of the Tenants Union of Washington State, said the bridge protections appear to be much weaker than the moratorium and lack of clarity could lead to loopholes.
“One, there’s a false sense of security because you’re feeling like the governor’s making an announcement, you may not hear the word extension wasn’t there. But, you’ve heard the date September 30, you may think that there's some safety and there's not. The other group I’m worried about is the people who hear that, and say oh this isn’t an extension, I’m at risk, I’m living afraid and they’re just going to move," she said.
She and Steve Corker, the president of the Landlords Association of the Inland Northwest, are also both concerned about the lack of clarity on rent increases, though for very different reasons.
Anderson said she’s concerned the confusion could be used to push tenants out. Corker said a rent increase could get a landlord in trouble with the Attorney General’s office, or unintended violations could lead to large fines for landlords.
“It is totally confusing, and once again, he waited until the last minute so we have less than a week to really try and figure it out," Corker said.
Anderson said she and other tenant advocates will request clarification from the governor’s office on the eviction moratorium bridge.