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New for Seattle tenants: Additional protection from evictions, rent assistance, right to renew leases

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If you live in Seattle, read on to find about specific tenant protections available to Seattle tenants. #6350EN

Please Note

*Read this only if you live inside city limits in Seattle, Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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 14, 2022, if a landlord tries to evict you for unpaid rent, but you were unable to pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may use that as a defense to the eviction.
  • 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 how and when these laws protect certain tenants.

 

* Even with the new laws we describe here, successfully fighting 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.

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.

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 February 28, 2022.

Meanwhile, a new local law gives more protection to tenants who cannot pay rent due to COVID-19. Until July 14, 2022, a landlord who wants to evict you for non-payment 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.

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.

Yes.

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 at nwjustice.org/apply-online if you think you may qualify.

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.

If you are on a lease, contract, or other “fixed term” agreement with your landlord, 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.

It depends. Between December 1, 2021 and March 1, 2022, some evictions are not allowed in Seattle. Some people have called this the “winter eviction ban.” But some landlords may still bring eviction cases to court during this time. However, some eligible tenants have an extra defense to the eviction case during this time.

To qualify for this extra protection, you must have a low income. Also, your landlord must rent out 4 or more rental units.  And finally, renters cannot us this defense if they are being evicted for criminal activity, waste, or nuisance. It’s important to talk to a lawyer about this defense if you think you may be eligible. See “Get Legal Help” below.

Probably. Rent increases are allowed in Seattle and other parts of Washington. State law requires your landlord to give you at least 60 days’ notice before a rent increase. But in Seattle, as of November 8, 2021, landlords must give at least 180 days’ written notice (about 6 months) before the rent goes up.

However, some renters who receive subsidies (like a Section 8 voucher, or who live in a subsidized housing unit) may still see the portion they must pay of the rent go up with only 30 days notice (if their income or household members change).

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 through the King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program.

Washington LawHelp’s 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.

  • Facing Eviction? Call 1-855-657-8387.
  • Apply online with CLEAR*Onlinenwjustice.org/apply-online
  • Facing Foreclosure? Call 1-800-606-4819.
  • Facing a legal issue in King County (other than Eviction or Foreclosure)? Call 2-1-1 (or toll-free 1-877-211-9274) weekdays 8:00 am - 6:00 pm. They will refer you to a legal aid provider.
  • Facing a legal issue outside of King County (other than Eviction or Foreclosure)? Call the CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays between 9:15 am - 12:15 pm or apply online at nwjustice.org/apply-online.
  • Seniors (age 60 and over) with a legal issue outside of King County can also call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111.
  • Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired callers can call any of these numbers using the relay service of your choice.

CLEAR and 2-1-1 will provide interpreters.

 

 

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Last Review and Update: Feb 14, 2022
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