New Washington State law: Eviction Resolution Pilot Programs (ERPPs) and right to an attorney for tenants

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Find out about a new law that establishes mediation for those behind on rent because of COVID-19 and find more information the right to a free lawyer for low-income tenants facing eviction. #6347EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

As of May 2021, a new state law gives tenants new rights and protections. The new law (Senate Bill 5160) says tenants living in counties that agree to take part in an Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP or ERP) can go through a mediation process to pay back rent instead of being evicted through a court. The new law also says that tenants who qualify may get a free attorney to represent them at an eviction court hearing. Keep reading to learn more about ERPPs and Right to a Lawyer.

No, there is not. It ended on June 30, 2021. 

If you owe rent from between March 1, 2020 and the time that the governor declares the end of the public health emergency, your landlord has to offer you a rent repayment plan before starting an eviction. The repayment plan has to be reasonable. It cannot be more than 1/3 of the monthly rent amount you had during the moratorium. 

Example: Your rent during COVID-19 was $900. Your repayment plan cannot be more than $300. If you can’t afford $300 a month plus your current rent, try to negotiate a lower amount for your repayment plan.

Once your landlord offers you a repayment plan, you have 14 days to accept or reject it. You can also try to negotiate another repayment amount. It is a defense to an eviction if your landlord filed a case based on back rent and did not first offer you a repayment plan.

Do not ignore this offer. Your landlord can file an eviction if you don’t respond!

Additionally, your landlord has to offer you a chance to participate in the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program if they want to start an eviction case against you for owing rent. See below.

If you want to know more about rent repayment plans, read Coronavirus (COVID-19): Can my landlord evict me now?

This program requires landlords in these counties to offer mediation to tenants who are behind on rent before filing an eviction case. If you are behind on rent, your landlord must send you a mediation notice. If you agree to mediation, you can either contact your local Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) or fill out the form your landlord sent you. You must do one of these within 14 days.  If you do not respond within 14 days, your landlord could then file an eviction case with the court. Contact a lawyer right away if you get court documents.

*This program is required for landlords. But it is voluntary for tenants to take part in. You can choose not to do it.

A Dispute Resolution Center should contact you and your landlord. DRC’s have trained eviction resolution specialists who will schedule a mediation session with you and your landlord. In this mediation session, you and your landlord meet with the specialist to see if you can come up with a plan for the rent owed. A landlord might, for example, agree to waive (forgive) part of the rent if you agree to pay back a certain amount. And the mediator or DRC could also try to connect you with rental assistance programs.

If you cannot come up with a good agreement that works for you and the landlord at your mediation, your landlord could then file an eviction case against you. But what happened in the mediation would stay private.

If you don’t want to mediate with your landlord or do not contact them or a Dispute Resolution Center within 14 days after getting the notice, your landlord must still offer a rent repayment plan. If you do not agree to a rent repayment plan, your landlord can then give you a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate.

*Read My Landlord Just Gave Me a 14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate

If you do not pay all your back rent after your landlord tried to offer a reasonable repayment plan or after you got a 14-Day Notice, your landlord can then file an eviction case with the court. Contact a lawyer right away if you get court documents.

*See “Get Legal Help” below and use the drop down menu at WashingtonLawHelp’s Eviction Help page to find local rent and legal assistance.

In the event there is no ERP in your county, seek legal advice about whether your landlord can proceed to evict you for nonpayment of rent without offering you an opportunity to mediate. 

Low-income renters 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 if you think you may quality.

Free lawyers for tenants or “Right to Counsel” is only for people who do not make a lot of money or are “indigent.” This means you are currently getting public assistance like food stamps or disability benefits. You are also indigent if your annual income, after taxes, is 200% or less below the federal poverty level. Find out if you are below the federal poverty level.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.

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Last Review and Update: Jul 15, 2022
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