By Tom James
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — A package of tenant protections including extended eviction notice times has cleared its second floor vote in the Legislature.
The proposal would extend notice periods from three days to 14, ban eviction for nonpayment of fees, and require landlords to apply payments to rent before fees, among other protections.
With a vote Friday of 51-46 in the state House, the bill had been approved in its basic form by both halves of the Legislature. Having been amended in the House, it now faces a final vote in the Senate before heading to Gov. Jay Inslee.
The bill’s sponsor, Bellevue Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, said after the vote she was optimistic that wouldn’t be a stumbling block for the measure, which she called a step toward reducing homelessness linked to evictions.
Advocates have called the extension of the pay-or-vacate period a key protection for tenants. They said the extra time will give struggling renters a chance to find and apply for rent assistance or other services to avoid eviction.
The bill stoked significant debate ahead of the vote Friday, however, with Republicans broadly saying that it would drive especially small landlords out of the market and ultimately raise housing costs.
“Not all landlords are just rolling in cash,” Puyallup Republican Rep. Chris Gildon said. “It will result in the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do.”
Landlords’ associations objected to the bill in the weeks leading up to the vote Friday on similar grounds, saying that adding more than a week to eviction periods would cause property owners to risk missing their own mortgage and utility payments.
Along with extended wait times, the bill also proposes giving new power to judges, who would be allowed to temporarily block evictions based on factors including the tenant’s payment history and whether they had made a good-faith effort to pay.
In what Democratic lawmakers described as an effort to balance landlords’ risks, the bill would also expand access to an existing state fund to allow reimbursement if tenants default after a court delay.
But Republican Rep. Jeremie Dufault, of Selah said accessing the fund would be impractical for smaller landlords in out-of-the-way parts of the state.
“I appreciate the gesture,” Dufault said. “But that is going to be sucked up by King County landlords who can hire lawyers and file paperwork.”
After the vote, Kuderer said the bill was a direct approach to homelessness.
“Evictions are a leading cause of homelessness in Washington state,” said Kuderer, who added that the bill was part of an effort to reach people before they end up on the streets. “This legislation is a significant step in that direction.”