Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin has signed an emergency order putting in place immediately a temporary moratorium for any residential eviction action related to the non-payment of rent, according to a release.
Tenants are required to continue paying their rent if they are able and should work with their landlords on payment plans if they are experiencing financial hardship.
“We have entered an unprecedented era for our city,” Durkin said in a release. “Too many families are already struggling, and COVID-19 virus has disproportionately affected the communities who can least afford it.
“As we take steps to slow the spread of the virus across Seattle’s communities, a part of that response is to ensure that families are not displaced and forced into homelessness. While the city will need significant state and federal resources to handle the long-term impacts of the crisis, we are charting the course for the rest of the country, and Seattle must set the example by reducing the financial hardship for workers impacted by this pandemic.”
Other cities and states are also exploring placing a moratorium on evictions.
Durkin also announced that the City of Seattle will provide $5 million in grocery vouchers to help families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new grocery voucher program will provide 6,250 families $800 in vouchers to purchase food, cleaning supplies, and other household goods at any Safeway store in Washington state.
Earlier, two major landlord groups in Washington proposed a 30-day halt to the enforcement of evictions because of the COVID-19 virus.
The Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) and the Washington Multi-Family Association (WMFHA) had called for the pause.
“We are actively working with the city of Seattle, King County, and the legislature to implement emergency rental-housing measures that will open the door for services and rent relief, with minimal administrative delay. In addition, we anticipate over one million dollars of state budget money will be appropriated by the end of the week to fund rental-support services at the Department of Commerce,” the RHAWA said in its statement.
“King County is experiencing the highest rate of COVID-19 illness in the country and the disease is impacting many elements of daily life. Decisions to cancel or postpone public events or institute building closures are done in the interest of public health, but can lead to tangible impacts on people’s income and employment – particularly those who cannot go to work as a result. Housing providers are committed to supporting residents who are impacted by COVID-19 and need assistance with their housing costs.
“The rental-housing industry is recommending a 30-day hold on writs of restitution for King County residents. This hold would prevent physical evictions during the emergency period. Importantly, it would still allow unlawful detainer proceedings to continue but prevent the physical eviction and keep people in their homes. New laws in Washington state make rental-assistance funds available to residents only after a court proceeding is initiated. The industry supported these funds and welcomes their use.
“A hold on physical evictions that allows court proceedings to continue has the dual benefit of keeping residents in their homes while opening paths to emergency rental-assistance funds at the state and local level,” the RHAWA said in the release.
Further recommendations and reminders for housing providers
The association also said in the release, “In addition to working with local leaders, we are encouraging our members and all housing providers to engage in early and regular outreach to their residents. Communication is key to addressing financial, health, and other hardships that can make it difficult to cover expenses like housing costs. As such, we are sharing the following reminders and recommendations for housing providers:
- Work with your residents on payment plans and agreements, and be sure to put them in writing.
- Waive late fees and other administrative costs over the next 30-day period.
- Share the latest COVID-19 recommendations and updates provided by King County Public Health.
- Contact your mortgage lender about temporary mortgage relief and federal mortgage assistance to protect your credit, prevent foreclosure, and ensure your rental property remains available and on the market.
- Contact the Washington State Department of Commerce Landlord Fund Programs to access reimbursements for unpaid rent.
“We are committed to solutions that provide immediate relief to residents impacted by COVID-19 that ensure the ongoing availability of rental housing to everyone who needs a home,” the association said in the statement.
The association said there are multiple financial resources available in the industry. For a non-exclusive list of resources, follow this link. The association said it will continue to work with policymakers to identify additional financial resources dedicated to preventing physical evictions during this critical time.