Tenants in Washington now have an additional 30-day stay from eviction if they’re seeking help for past-due rent after the governor extended the bridge eviction moratorium.
Despite that extension, many could still be at risk of losing their housing due to lack of participation in the state-funded eviction resolution programs.
Under the current eviction moratorium, landlords can’t start proceedings against tenants for unpaid rent until the tenants have been provided an opportunity to resolve the issue. But they're not protected if they don’t participate.
The mediation groups that are contracted by the state to provide that service say a little more than 12% of tenants who are contacted with a request for mediation don’t respond.
Leslie Ann Grove, the executive director for Northwest Mediation Center, says if a tenant doesn’t answer within 14 days of a request for mediation, their landlord can take them to court.
“If they are in court the process becomes much more complex, and much more daunting,” Grove says.
She says her organization has tried to address barriers tenants may have. They have translation services available, information about rental assistance, and can connect tenants to a free lawyer if they don’t have one.
“The whole idea is to keep people housed, and get landlords paid for their rent,” Grove says.
She says she also knows are in crisis, and may feel overwhelmed and may struggle to return mail, or phone calls while in financial hardship.
Jack Hebner, the director of the Fulcrum Institute Dispute Resolution Clinic, which is also contracted to handle cases in Spokane, says one potential barrier could be the eviction moratorium itself. Earlier versions offered far more protections, both from rent increases and landlord efforts to collect unpaid rent.
Those protections have nearly all expired.
He says tenants may not be aware of how at risk they are of losing their housing, and said if they wait until the current moratorium extension expires, it may be too late for them to avoid eviction.