OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday the state’s eviction protections will remain in place through the end of October because counties aren’t getting federal and state COVID-19 relief funds intended for rental assistance out fast enough ahead of the current moratorium that was set to expire Sept. 30.
Under an eviction moratorium “bridge” that Inslee announced in June, landlords were prevented from evicting tenants for any past-due rent owed from Feb. 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021.
Since Aug. 1, renters have been expected to pay full rent unless they negotiate a lesser amount with their landlord or are actively seeking rental assistance. Tenants must also be provided in writing what services and support are available to them and landlords must offer them a reasonable repayment plan before starting the eviction process. Those protections will now remain in place until 11:59 p.m. Oct. 31.
As before, evictions are still allowed in cases where the landlord intends to sell or move into the property, or if an affidavit declares there are health and safety issues to the property created by the occupant.
“This brief extension will help ensure that no one is evicted while large amounts of rental assistance funding is still available but unused,” the Democratic governor said.
In a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee Thursday morning, Tedd Kelleher, senior managing director of housing assistance with the state Department of Commerce, said of the $1.1 billion available for rental assistance through state and federal funds, $220 million has been spent through the end of July. Just 10 of the state’s 39 counties have spent more than 25% of money awarded, and 13 counties have spent below 10%.
He said the primary barrier is the capacity for processing applications, especially in larger counties, which is leading to long wait times.
Inslee’s announcement comes days after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said her city eviction moratorium will remain in place through Jan. 15, 2022, rather than expiring at the end of September.
According to the Census Pulse Survey for the weeks of Sept. 1-13, approximately 57,000 households statewide are currently not paying rent, and more than 147,000 have "no confidence" they could pay next month's rent. The Census survey found that more than 49,000 respondents said it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" they would have to leave their home due to eviction in the next two months.
“Money is available and it needs to get distributed as soon as possible,” Inslee said. “We encourage local governments to redouble their efforts.”
Republican Rep. Michelle Caldier criticized Inslee’s decision to extend the moratorium, saying in a written statement that the “government’s failure to distribute rental assistance in a timely manner should not fall on the backs of rental housing providers who have been forced to carry the burden of thousands of tenants not paying their rent."
"This is extremely disappointing and will lead to more rental property owners leaving this industry and creating further housing shortages,” she wrote.
Earlier this week, several Democratic members of Congress introduced a bill that would reimpose a nationwide eviction moratorium. The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority at the end of August allowed evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a new temporary ban that was put in place earlier that month because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
There have been more than 567,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — plus more than 70,000 “probable” cases — in Washington state, and 7,434 deaths.
As of this week, nearly 76% of people age 12 and older have initiated vaccination and about 69% are fully vaccinated.