New Seattle Tenant Protections in Response to COVID Crisis

Seattle has passed three new tenant protection laws in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Inability to pay defense. For a six-month period after the mayor’s residential eviction moratorium ends, tenants may raise an inability to pay as a defense. This law does not prevent landlords from starting an eviction action, and the tenant must come to court and raise the defense. This ordinance requires language in the 14-day notice. It is a defense to eviction if this language is not included.

Payment plans. For the duration of the state of emergency declared by the mayor, Seattle residential tenants may pay overdue rent in payment plans. The plans have certain maximum durations (depending on how much overdue rent the tenant owes). It may be difficult for tenants to make all payments under a payment plan, in which case they would be subject to being evicted.

Screening. Landlords may not take adverse action against current or prospective tenants during the state of emergency based on an eviction action occurring during or within six months after the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency ends, unless the eviction is based on tenant actions that pose an imminent threat to health or safety (which may not include COVID-19 status).

This ordinance requires language in every notice of adverse action notifying the tenant 1) that the landlord is prohibited from taking an adverse action against a tenant based on
eviction history occurring during or within six months after the end of the civil emergency proclaimed by Mayor Durkan; and 2) that the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is the department that will enforce any violations of this ordinance.

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