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Washington Senate Passes Eviction Bill; Critics Say It's Weighted Toward Tenants

Courtesy of the University of Washington

The Washington Senate on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reducing the severity of what could be a massive wave of evictions.

Washington’s year-long eviction moratorium is due to end on March 31. Sen. Patty Kuderer [D-Bellevue] is anticipating a wave of eviction notices for tenants who have fallen behind in their rent. “The ultimate goals of this policy, Mr. President, are two fold. They are to keep tenants housed and to help landlords pay their bills. That’s it, in a nutshell," says Kuderer, the bill's lead sponsor.

She says the bill creates steps to resolve disputes, starting with mediation and other non-court processes.

“It requires landlords to offer reasonable payment plans to the tenants to see if they can work out the past rent over the public health emergency before seeking an eviction,” Kuderer said.

If a case remains unresolved, it goes to court. Indigent tenants can receive a court-appointed lawyer to represent them.

Opponents say they appreciate the intent but the bill is a bigger help for tenants than landlords. Sen. Phil Fortunato [R-Auburn] says landlords are losing money every month they don’t receive rent.

“I’m getting people coming after me for utility bills and property taxes and then I might get some rental assistance money, but it doesn’t cover the full amount. I’m now in a situation where, you know what, I want to sell my units," Fortunato said.

That's what's happening in the Vancouver area, says Sen. Ann Rivers [R-Vancouver]. She says mom-and-pop landlords are selling their houses in her district, leading to a big shortage of housing units and increasing rents. She and Fortunato say they want to support Kuderer’s bill, but that it still needs some improvement.

It may get some tweaking in the state House, where the legislation is now headed.