The Seattle City Council has voted to ban winter evictions from the months of December through February, shortening the original proposal from five months to three months, according to reports.
The council also added a provision exempting landlords who own four units or less.
The original proposal would have banned evictions in Seattle during the five months between November 1 and March 31. It would prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent for up to five months.
The exceptions to the proposal would be if a tenant is doing something illegal in or around the building.
To help survive potential legal challenges, council member Kshama Sawant added an amendment to position the winter months as a defense to getting evicted, rather than an outright ban, and included a few “just-cause” exemptions that include crimes by the tenant and any illegal actions from the landlord, according to SCC Insight.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and some landlord and development groups, however, have raised questions about the measure’s legality and effectiveness. She could veto the legislation, and it takes six council votes to overcome her veto.
In a letter sent to the council Monday, a representative of the mayor’s office said they have “significant concerns that the operational, legal and policy issues associated with [the bill]will not help the city achieve those goals” of reducing eviction, according to Crosscut.
Sawant originally introduced the idea of banning winter evictions late last year. She said in a release that the City of Seattle Renters’ Commission sent a letter urging the City Council to pass an emergency moratorium – effective immediately – on evictions during the winter. In their letter, the Commissioners said, “Passing such a moratorium will keep neighbors from being displaced to the streets during the months with the harshest weather and poorest living conditions for neighbors living unsheltered.”
“I am grateful to the Renters’ Commission for recommending an emergency moratorium on winter eviction,” Sawant said in the release. “I strongly agree that (the) council needs to put this into effect immediately.”
The Washington Multifamily Housing Association wrote a letter to the council opposing the ban on evictions and suggesting instead that they consider additional investment in emergency rental-assistance programs.
“It is financially prudent to invest in emergency rental assistance before an eviction is filed, than (to) wait for an eviction action to be filed, risking the tenant’s housing and increasing the cost burden on programs dedicated to preventing displacement due to eviction,” the association said in the letter.
“We support a modest increase in the emergency rental assistance to provide tenants experiencing financial hardship the opportunity to recover their tenancy prior to an eviction action starting, and ask that you consider this approach as an alternative to preventing the court from considering evictions altogether 42 percent of the year,” the association said in the letter.
King County saw approximately 3,200 evictions in 2017, with more than 85 percent of them filed for nonpayment of rent, and more than half involving the nonpayment of one month’s rent or less, according to The Seattle Times.
The average temperatures in Seattle in the winter months according to Climate-Data.org are: November, high 51, low 40; December, high 46, low 37; January, high 45, low 35; February, high 49, low 37; and March, high 52, low 38. The average number of days per month when the temperature dips below freezing are: November, three; December, eight; January, six; February, five; March, two.