Washington Landlords Sue Over State Eviction Dispute Centers

Washington landlords sue the state eviction-dispute resolution centers that are not working to get rent paid in a timely manner

Washington landlords have filed suit in Spokane over the issue of eviction-dispute resolution centers that are not working to get rent paid in a timely manner according to landlords.

“We’re stuck. We’re really at the mercy of these non-judicial entities … to give us the magic ticket to be able to go to court,” said Sean Flynn, vice president of the Washington Business Properties Association, to the Seattle Times. “And they’re not doing it. When they are doing it, it’s not timely.” He said delays are a state-wide problem.

Landlords who want to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent must first notify a dispute-resolution center in their county and wait for the center to issue them a certificate. Landlords say the dispute-resolution centers can be slow to issue the certificates, sometimes taking six months or longer.

Resolution Washington, the statewide coalition of dispute-resolution centers, denied the charge that delays are widespread. From November through June, the median case took 22 days, according to the organization.

Eviction Dispute Resolution Pilot Program

The resolution-dispute centers, operating under something called the  Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP), were created by the state in an attempt to avoid mass evictions when the state lifted the eviction moratorium. The mandate that landlords get certificates from the resolution centers in nonpayment cases does not expire next July.

Meanwhile “the process has drawn criticism from both tenant and landlord groups, who say it can be opaque or slow,” the Seattle Times reported.

“We firmly believe that while well-intentioned, this process shuts off access to the justice system with convoluted, ill-defined rules and an unrealistic process controlled by unaccountable third parties,” said Chester Baldwin, CEO of the Washington Business Properties Association, in a post on the association site.

He said at issue is how eviction cases are being diverted into a quasi-judicial, non-binding process that requires a certification by a private, third-party mediator before actual legal proceedings can begin in an unlawful detainer action.

“Our state is facing a myriad of challenges when it comes to housing access and affordability. This process is making it worse, driving up rents and driving out providers,” Baldwin said. “The justice system should not have a private gatekeeper making this crisis worse.”

The association asks the eviction-prevention program be declared unconstitutional.

One housing provider sent a 14-day notice to vacate and ERPP forms in April and still has not received a certificate allowing them to appear before a court. “It’s these kinds of costly and unconstitutional delays that must stop,” Baldwin said in late July.

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