Coronavirus (COVID-19): There are only a few reasons your landlord can evict you right now
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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What to do if you cannot pay your rent during the pandemic. Includes information about the eviction moratorium and sample letters to your landlord if you receive an eviction notice or if you can't pay the rent. #6308EN
- I am a tenant in Washington. Am I eligible for these eviction protections?
- What is my landlord prohibited from doing?
- Can my landlord make me leave because my landlord wants to sell the property or move into the property?
- What must my landlord actually do if I'm behind in rent?
- Do I need to do anything to get these protections?
- Can the sheriff still put me out?
- I own the mobile home I live in. I rent the lot. Do these eviction moratoria apply to me?
- What if my living arrangement is different than a typical housing rental situation?
- I live in public housing or other type of government housing. Am I protected from eviction?
- I rent on tribal land. Am I protected from eviction?
- What if I could not live in or move into the place due to COVID-19?
- I rent a storefront or other commercial space. Do I have any protections?
- Are there other eviction protections for residential tenants?
- My landlord is trying to evict me anyway.
*Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.
Most residential tenants in Washington state are protected from eviction through at least December 31, 2020, unless a tenant is causing a significant and immediate risk to health, safety, or property and/or engaging in criminal activity on the rental property. This broad protection is because of both state andfederal eviction moratoria in place right now. Combined, these moratoria mean that there are very few circumstances under which your landlord can evict you, until the moratoria expire.
The Washington state moratorium was put in place by the governor. The federal moratorium was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
I am a tenant in Washington. Am I eligible for these eviction protections?
Probably. To qualify, you must be a residential tenant living in Washington and not causing an immediate and substantial risk to health, safety, or property. One example of such a threat is if you are doing something that could cause a fire and refusing to fix it.
Having COVID-19 does not qualify as a substantial risk.
If you are causing immediate and substantial risk to health, safety, or property and/or engaging in criminal activity on the rental property, your landlord may start the legal process to evict you, called an "unlawful detainer" action. In this situation, your landlord must attach to a Notice to Vacate and a written sworn statement ("affidavit") that this notice/action is "necessary to respond to a significant and immediate risk to the health, safety, or property of others created by" you. Otherwise, your landlord cannot start any eviction actions against you.
If you do not meet certain financial requirements, your landlord may start the process to evict you if your landlord first gives you a written 60-day notice that your landlord plans to sell the property or move into the property, including a written statement ("affidavit") swearing under penalty of perjury that your landlord is selling or moving into the property. Your landlord must be the one who intends to move into the property. The notice cannot be for a family member or friend to move into the property. And, the notice must be in the form of a sworn statement signed under penalty of perjury by your landlord.
What is my landlord prohibited from doing?
While the eviction moratoria are in place your landlord cannot do the following:
Give you a notice to pay or vacate if you could not pay the rent during the time the moratoria are in place (until December 31, 2020). If you get this kind of notice from your landlord, fill out Form A below, give it to your landlord, and keep a copy for yourself.
Give you a 20-day notice to vacate because you are on a month-to-month lease. If you get this kind of notice from your landlord, fill out Form B below, give it to your landlord, and keep a copy for yourself.
Deliver to ("serve") you any court papers or try to get a court order against you to get you to move.
Try to force you to move even if you had previously agreed to move out.
Force you to move to a smaller rental if you cannot pay the rent where you are living right now.
Raise the rent or increase your deposit between now and December 31, 2020, although if your lease has an automatic rent increase already written in it this may not apply until after the moratoria end.
Charge late fees for any rent payment you made late or could not pay from February 29, 2020 to the date the moratoria end.
Report a debt for rent on your credit.
Can my landlord make me leave because my landlord wants to sell the property or move into the property?
Although the state moratorium allows your landlord to start the eviction process if your landlord serves you a written 60-day notice of an intent to sell the property or to move into the property (and the affidavit mentioned above), the federal moratorium likely prohibits it. The law is not entirely clear, but you must meet requirements, including being behind in rent, to be covered by the federal moratorium. If you get this kind of notice from your landlord, read the statement "Declaration" in Form D below. If all of that is true, sign it, and give it to your landlord. Don't forget to make a copy for your records. And, speak with a lawyer right away. See "Get Legal Help" below.
What must my landlord actually do if I'm behind in rent?
If you cannot pay the rent, your landlord must offer you a reasonable payment plan. This plan has to be based on your own circumstances. The same payment plan for all the tenants in your entire building doesn't count. You can use Form C below to propose a payment plan that works for you.
If you landlord does not offer you any payment plan or does not accept a plan you offer, you should make sure to document any communication regarding your attempts to enter a payment plan.
If you miss a payment, your landlord should not give not you a 10-day notice. Your landlord cannot take any action against you until after the moratoria end. Since your landlord can take action after the moratoria end, it is important that any payment plan you accept is one that is doable for you. For example, if you have no income, a plan would need to have payments start when you get your job back or start getting unemployment checks.
For more about rental payment assistance, see: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Should I enter into a rent repayment plan with my landlord?
*If your landlord does not propose a reasonable payment plan, and later tries to evict you, it is a defense to the eviction if you can prove the landlord did not propose a reasonable plan.
Do I need to do anything to get these protections?
Mostly no. These protections are in place without you having to do anything.
One exception is if you receive a 60-day notice to vacate because your landlord wants to sell the property or wants to move in. In this case, fill out the "declaration" Form D below required under the federal moratorium and give it to your landlord right away. That declaration is called, "CDC Eviction Moratorium Declaration." It has the exact language you need to swear to under penalty of perjury. Do not change its language unless a lawyer tells you to.
Also speak with a lawyer right away, letting them know that your landlord is trying to evict you. See "Get Legal Help" below.
Can the sheriff still put me out?
Law enforcement (the sheriff) may not enforce (carry out) court eviction orders unless the order says that it is because you caused a significant and immediate health, safety, or property risk or your landlord intends to sell the property or move into the property and you do not meet the requirements of the CDC Order described in Form D below. Your county court may have added other requirements.
I own the mobile home I live in. I rent the lot. Do these eviction moratoria apply to me?
What if my living arrangement is different than a typical housing rental situation?
The state moratorium covers anyone who lives at property they do not own. You must have lived in this place for more than 14 days for the moratorium to apply. Here are some examples. This is not a complete list:
You live in a motor home or RV you own. You rent the lot the motor home sits on.
You live in transitional housing.
You live in a camping area.
You live in an Airbnb.
You live in a hotel or motel. You occupy the hotel or motel room as your residence.
You are renting a room from a roommate.
You live at a commercial property as a caregiver or security.
The state moratorium does not apply if your name is not on the rental agreement and you stay after the tenants on the rental agreement have left unless your landlord knew you were living there.
I live in public housing or other type of government housing. Am I protected from eviction?
Yes. These protections still apply to you.
I rent on tribal land. Am I protected from eviction?
If you live in tribal housing, the federal moratorium likely applies to you. If you live on privately owned land not held in trust on an Indian reservation ("fee land"), both the state and tribal moratoriums may apply. If your landlord threatens you with eviction, read the "declaration," Form D below. If everything in that statement is true, sign it, and give it to your landlord. And right away, get legal help. See below for how to apply.
What if I could not live in or move into the place due to COVID-19?
A landlord may not charge you rent for a place you could not live in due to COVID-19. For example, if you had to move out of your dorm because your school closed or your property is condemned because of COVID, you should not be billed for the time you could not live at the property.
I rent a storefront or other commercial space. Do I have any protections?
If COVID-19 has greatly affected you or your business, a landlord may not raise or threaten to raise your rent, unless the rental increases were included in a lease signed before February 29, 2020.
We have a sample letter below, Form A, which you can use, depending on your situation.
Are there other eviction protections for residential tenants?
Maybe. It depends on where you live. Some cities in Washington have other eviction protections for tenants. If you live in any of these cities below, read the fact sheet that applies to you:
My landlord is trying to evict me anyway.
Get legal help right away.
Outside King County: Call the CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
In King County: Call 2-1-1 for referral to a legal services provider weekdays from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.
Persons 60 and Over can call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111 (statewide).
Deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired callers can call CLEAR or 211 (or toll-free 1-877-211-9274) using a relay service of your choice.
CLEAR and 211 will provide free interpreters.
You also can contact the state Attorney General's office. Let them know your landlord is trying to evict you.