New for Seattle tenants: Additional protection from evictions, rent assistance, right to renew leases
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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If you live in Seattle, read on to find about specific tenant protections available to Seattle tenants. #6350EN
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Tenants in Seattle: Read this +
New city laws say when and how tenants can defend themselves from being evicted.
Landlords must have a “good” (legal) reason for not renewing a rental agreement, ending (terminating) a tenancy, or evicting a tenant—and, in some cases, must pay the tenant to help them move.
Between now and July 15, 2022, a landlord cannot evict you for unpaid rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teachers, school staff, and households with children or students cannot be evicted for not being able to pay rent during the school year.
Tenants with low incomes may qualify for free legal help if they have an upcoming eviction court hearing.
Landlords must offer tenants a chance to renew their leases before renting the unit to someone else.
Seattle tenants with low incomes can apply for rent assistance.
We discuss here briefly how and when these laws protect certain tenants.
*Even with the new laws we describe here, successfully defending against an eviction in court can be hard and complicated. Talk to a lawyer right away if your landlord tries to evict you. See contact info for legal help below.
*In all cases where the landlord wants you to move, the landlord must first properly deliver a written notice (on paper) to you. They cannot just tell you verbally, or through a text message. They cannot try to force you out by changing the locks, or shutting off the utilities. If a landlord does this to you, you may have a case for wrongful eviction. Talk to a lawyer right away! Read My Landlord Locked Me Out: What Can I Do? to learn more.
My landlord says I have to move because the building will be renovated. Can I get relocation assistance? +
Maybe. It depends on if you have a low income and what your landlord plans to do with the building. Seattle law says landlords must pay tenants to help them move if the landlord wants to remodel, demolish, or change the rental unit. Landlords must prove that they actually will remodel, demolish, or change the unit.
A landlord must provide you relocation assistance (money to move) in any of these situations:
The landlord gets a city notice that your rental unit is unauthorized and they have to stop renting it, or
The landlord gets a city notice that your housing unit is not up to code and they want to stop renting it (rather than fix it), or
More people live in your unit than is allowed, and the landlord has to reduce the number of people, or
The city orders the landlord to close a rental during an emergency.
I am behind on rent due to COVID-19. Can I be evicted? +
Maybe not. During the pandemic, Seattle has only allowed evictions if a tenant is a threat to the safety of others. Seattle’s eviction moratorium (pause on evictions) is scheduled to end on January 15, 2022.
Meanwhile, a new local law gives more protection to tenants who cannot pay rent due to COVID-19. Until July 15, 2022, a landlord who wants to evict you for non- or late payment of rent must first give you a written notice saying you have a defense because the moratorium ended less than 6 months ago.
You can fight a rent-related eviction by making a written declaration (statement) of financial hardship. The landlord must also give you a chance to schedule a rent repayment plan.
I am a student, or a parent to a student, or I work at a school. I am behind on rent during the school year. Can I be evicted? +
Your landlord cannot evict you for rent you owe during the school year. However, your landlord could still try to evict you for other reasons. The law protects you during the school year and if:
You are a student, or
You have legal custody of a child or student, or
You work at a school in Seattle, including as an employee or contractor. You can be an administrator, counselor, cafeteria worker, custodian, or teacher.
The law defines a child or student as under 18 years old or currently enrolled in a school. (They do not have to be both.)
*“School” includes a childcare location, a head start program, or a private school or public school up to the 12th grade.
I have an eviction case. Can I get a free lawyer? +
Renters with low incomes are entitled to a lawyer free of charge before a court may proceed with an eviction. Call our Eviction Defense Screening line at 1-855-657-8387 or apply online if you think you may quality.
The court should give you the chance to have a lawyer appointed to your eviction case. At your show cause hearing, ask the court to reschedule (continue) the hearing so you can get a lawyer appointed to your case. You should insist on this right even if the judge wants the case to proceed without you having a lawyer.
My lease ends soon. Does the landlord have to offer me a new lease? +
If you are on a lease, contract, or other “fixed term” agreement with your landlord, then your landlord must first offer to renew that lease or agreement before asking you to leave or trying to evict you. The landlord must send you a notice 2 or 3 months before the end of the lease, to offer you a chance to renew it. After you get that notice, you have 1 month to decline or accept the new lease.
However, the landlord can still keep you from renewing the lease if they have a “just cause” or good reason not to.
I live in Seattle and need help paying rent. Can I get rental assistance? +
Money is available to help with this! You can apply for local rental assistance if all of these are true:
You live in King County
You have a lease (or proof of rent payments)
Your household is low income
Your difficulty paying rent is related to COVID
Rent assistance is meant to help everyone, no matter what your citizenship or immigration status. Applying for rent assistance will not harm any immigration application you file.
You can apply for King County rent assistance here: bit.ly/3kxgb88.
Our Eviction Help page has a drop-down menu that will let you search for rent assistance by county. Northwest Justice Project does not have rental assistance money. We only provide a list of organizations that may be able to help.
Get Legal Help
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.