Gov. Jay Inslee has extended Washington’s moratorium to Sept. 30, a week before its expiration, as many Washingtonians struggle to regain their financial footing.
The governor announced on Thursday following the federal eviction moratorium’s extension through July 31 by the Biden administration. The announcement marks the sixth time Inslee has extended Washington state’s eviction moratorium. It falls in line with Seattle, Kirkland and Kenmore’s similar decisions to extend their eviction moratoriums through Sept. 30.
The Washington Legislature passed a bill this year setting the expiration date for the state’s eviction moratorium on June 30, when it was set to end. Inslee’s latest proclamation effectively creates a new suspension, ensuring tenants have no gap in protections. This new moratorium is now among the longest in the nation, blowing past New York’s eviction ban, which ends on Aug. 31.
Inslee described the moratorium as a “bridge” to help struggling Washingtonians keep their heads above water between now and when the state economy regains some semblance of normalcy.
“As we all know, COVID has had a significant economic impact on our state and a lot of Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships,” Inslee said. “These are all reasonable steps and will help ensure that renters and landlords have the opportunity to receive support and resources that are available to them.”
Under the new proclamation, tenants cannot be evicted for unpaid rent due from Feb. 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021. In addition, landlords cannot treat unpaid rent as enforceable debt or begin evictions until rental assistance and eviction resolution programs are up and running in their county. Hotels, motels, Airbnbs and long-term care facilities are exempt from the proclamation.
Tenants will be on the hook for unpaid rent by Aug. 1. After that, they are expected to pay their rent in full, apply for rental assistance, or hammer a payment plan with their landlord. Landlords are also expected to walk tenants through the process in writing and offer “reasonable” repayment plans, though Inslee’s proclamation does not list any specific rates. Further details are expected to be made public in the coming days by Inslee’s office.
Housing rights groups like the Tenant Union of Washington have called on Inslee to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of 2021. Many like the Washington Housing Alliance (WHA) are waiting on reading the fine print.
“We appreciate that he is taking seriously the harm that would be caused by mass evictions, but we’re waiting on details to make sure the bridge will adequately protect tenants,” the WHA tweeted on Thursday.
While Washington’s unemployment numbers have dipped from their double-digit high in April, the state’s 5.5% jobless rate stands at two points higher than pre-pandemic levels. That figure does not take into account challenges facing single-parents of school-age children without childcare during summer vacation. For many Washington parents, returning to the workforce remains a challenge.
Inslee’s proclamation has left the state’s landlords with a lot to digest. Many say they lost patience with the eviction moratorium months ago.
“Clearly we have felt the time for a more focused and less restrictive order is long since past and that housing providers are carrying some burdens that are quite inequitable,” said Rob Trickler, an attorney and President of the Washington Landlord Association. “Moving forward is overdue and the longer that is delayed the more housing providers are being forced out of business.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, the state Department of Commerce reports has reported dispersing around $500 million in aid to local governments to help more than 80,000 landlords and renters. The state has projected back rent could be as high as $1.3 billion. Though Washington was given another $650 million in federal aid by Congress this past winter, payouts are expected sometime in July.
In a statement, the Washington Business Properties Association (WBPA) said the extension would add to the “considerable damage, cost, and loss of property” dealt to small housing providers over the past 18 months.
Last fall, the Washington Business Properties Association filed two lawsuits to overturn the state’s eviction moratorium and restrict such eviction bans from happening again in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Washington. The case will see its first oral arguments in Spokane on Jul. 1.
Washington’s new eviction moratorium now runs past Jun. 30 or when the state is expected to see 70% vaccination rates and reopen its economy. By the state’s estimates, 67.8% of Washingtonians ages 16 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine as of Wednesday.
This article was originally posted on Inslee extends eviction moratorium into fall