Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan has announced the official launch of Seattle’s new “Renting in Seattle” program, a centralized resource for renters and landlords to find information, services, and help with navigating the rules and regulations of renting in the City of Seattle, according to a release.
This follows the passage of two pieces of historic eviction-prevention legislation by the Washington State Legislature that allow tenants 14 days (instead of 3) to catch up on late rent before losing their homes, allow eviction-court judges to use discretion and consider extenuating circumstances such as job loss or hospitalization, expand a mitigation fund to ensure landlords receive judgment payments promptly while giving tenants more time to pay, and limit the attorney fees tenants can be required to pay. An additional bill provides more notice of rent increases by requiring 60 days’ notice of rent increases instead of 30.
“As we work to address our housing and affordability crisis, Renting in Seattle is one more tool that will help ensure Seattle can be a home for all,” Durkan said in the release.
“Renters make up the majority of households in our city, and it’s crucial that we have a range of resources so that renters have the tools they need to protect their rights, that property owners understand their obligations under the law, and that when questions arise, they can easily find the help they need,” she said.
Renting in Seattle program says small landlords can help preserve affordable housing
The program recognizes that landlords, particularly small landlords, have a vital role in preserving affordable rental housing in Seattle.
A portion of the website is written specifically to a landlord audience, providing information, best practices, and tips. Renting in Seattle is providing quarterly trainings to help landlords understand Seattle’s laws.
Landlords and property managers also are encouraged to call the helpline with questions and guidance on how to navigate complex situations. Enhancing the rental relationship through education of both landlords and tenants about their mutual rights and responsibilities is an important goal of the program.
“We are pleased to see the launch of the Renting in Seattle website and the city’s recognition of the importance of providing information, training, and assistance to landlords,” said Brett Waller of Washington Multi-Family Housing Association in the release. “Landlords play a critical role in providing housing to the residents of Seattle and keeping Seattle housed. The Renting in Seattle website will better assist landlords in accessing essential information to help increase awareness and conformity to new landlord-tenant laws specific to Seattle on an easy-to-use portal.”
Renting in Seattle making city services more accessible
“This is an important effort to make city services more accessible and efficient,” said Nathan Torgelson, Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), which will oversee the new program. “We started by thinking about the needs of the rental community and organized our information and resources to serve those needs.”
Historically, rental housing resources were spread across several city departments and various community partners, making it challenging for people to figure out where to find help. After deep consultation across departments and with the community, SDCI identified the need for a dedicated, centralized resource. Renting in Seattle consolidates information incorporating direct outreach and education to advance awareness of the city’s rental regulations, according to the release.
The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is now partnering with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) offering quarterly trainings, referrals, and technical assistance to tenants and landlords about their fair housing rights and obligations under city laws.
SOCR remains the enforcement agency of the city’s expansive housing discrimination laws. Renters may experience housing discrimination while seeking assistance with rental regulations, and landlords might have questions about how to comply with the rental regulations while trying to develop a reasonable accommodation policy. This approach creates better alignment for both tenants and landlords following Seattle’s rental laws.
“The Seattle Renters’ Commission had the opportunity to provide feedback during the development of the Renters’ Portal and expect it to be a helpful resource for renters and landlords in Seattle,” said Jessica Westgren, Co-Chair of Seattle Renters’ Commission, in the release. “We are excited to see the aggregation of information in a user-friendly format that is available to help renters find relevant information throughout all the stages of renting, including help finding a rental, navigating issues with landlords, and tenant’s responsibilities when leaving a property.”
Renting in Seattle includes a new plain-language website, www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle, that organizes information on laws, tips, and resources, across various stages of the renting experience. The city has added a dedicated helpline at (206)-684-5700 to connect renters and landlords to information and resources and to take complaints about problems in rental housing.
The Renting in Seattle program is:
- Administering more than $600,000 in grants to community partners who provide assistance to renters such as education, counseling, and legal services for eviction defense.
- Expanding capacity with outreach efforts to help renters and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities. More than 50 outreach and educational events are planned for 2019.
- Partnering with Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) to attend their weekly Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) orientations to bring vulnerable and low-income renters information about the program as they begin to look for housing.
- Using social media and advertising to distribute information, including a 30-second video for both landlords and tenants narrated in 13 languages.