Seattle Eviction Moratorium (Still) Expires August 1 But New Tenant Defenses

It is a widely held misconception that Seattle extended its eviction moratorium for an additional six months. That is not accurate. The moratorium is set to expire August 1.

Seattle passed a law that provides a defense of inability to pay for evictions based on non-payment of “rent due during, or within six months after the termination of, the Mayor’s residential eviction moratorium.”

Not all evictions are for non-payment of rent. Note also that the Seattle ordinance does not apply to tenants who were well behind with rent when the moratorium was enacted, and the landlord is evicting only for the pre-moratorium rent.

This law does not prohibit landlords from serving a notice to pay rent or vacate, even if the notice demands rent due during and/or within six months after the moratorium ends. The landlord may start an eviction, and then it is on the tenant to come to court and offer proof of an inability to pay.

Moreover, it remains to be seen how the courts will interpret ‘inability to pay.’ Inability to pay is a relative concept. What if the tenant has some income and has the financial ability to pay, say, two-thirds of the rent owed? Should they not have to pay according to their ability? Does their inability to pay by definition include only that portion they lack the financial ability to pay? These are legal arguments we will not know the answers to until the law is litigated.

There is a Seattle payment plan law and other laws that come into play as well. Consult with an attorney before proceeding.

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