New legislation seeks to protect renters from no-cause evictions in Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. — Lawmakers heard testimony today over House Bill 12-36, a new piece of legislation granting more protection to renters.

Under current Washington rental laws, a landlord can tell a renter to get out without giving them reason why they’re getting evicted. Once this notice is delivered, tenants have only 20 days to find new housing.

“A 20 day no-cause notice means that you can pay your rent on time every month and obey all the rules; but, if you’re in a month-to-month tenancy, your landlord can serve a no-cause notice, and you have to be out in 20 days. It’s very oppressive, and tenants live under that cloud,” said Terri Anderson, the Spokane Director of the Tenants Union of Washington.

Kevin Breen is a current renter in Spokane. He wanted to sign a year-long lease but says his landlord only offered him a month-to-month lease.

“Basically, their hope is to convert more tenants like me into unwilling month-to-month renters so that they can raise rent as soon as it’s possible for them,” Breen said.

This new legislation would put in place additional barriers if landlords do want to evict someone. They would need to prove specific justifiable causes for eviction. Some of the causes include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Illegal behavior
  • Property destruction
  • If the landlord wants to sell the unit or convert it to something else

While evictions are halted for the time being because of Gov. Jay Inslee’s moratorium, that expires at the end of March. Anderson says this bill, if passed, could be a long-term fix to renting laws in Washington and spark a quicker recovery from COVID.

“These laws will help cushion that recovery so that when we begin to recover, you can get back to work. If you don’t have a home to live in, how do you send your children back to school? How do you get up and apply for a job or get ready for that new job? All of those things are impossible if you don’t have a home to live in,” Anderson said.

However, not everyone is in support of this new bill, saying the pandemic has already been hard enough on landlords. Opponents say HB 12-36 would only make it tougher on landlords to maintain their properties.

“We as a group have been very impacted by COVID-19. Many have been subsidizing rent for more than a year now – at the same time, costs to repair and maintain the housing has continued to go up. We need to help get through this together,” said Cindy Pauley, a rental housing manager.