What are my rights as a tenant right now?

By Stephanie L. Messplay, Attorney

On April 16, 2020, Governor Inslee issued an order extending and expanding the eviction moratorium until June 4, 2020.  What does that mean for you if you’re a tenant?

First, your landlord cannot initiate eviction proceedings against you unless you pose a significant and immediate risk to the health and safety of others.  In other words, you cannot be served with a notice to vacate unless you are engaging in activity that creates a significant danger to others.   Activity that poses a significant risk to others does not include any health condition you may have, and does not include having been exposed to COVID-19.  We anticipate that this phrase instead refers to engaging in certain types of criminal activity or activity that renders the residence unfit for living, such as extreme hoarding.

Landlords cannot get around this by trying to evict you themselves. The landlord tenant act prohibits landlords from engaging in “self-help” evictions: changing the locks, bolting the doors, removing your personal property, or any other attempt to bar you from residing in the home is not allowed.

Second, your landlord cannot assess late fees for unpaid rent at this time. This does not mean that you should stop paying your rent!  Your rent is still due.   If you have lost your job and are having difficulty paying your rent during this time, talk to your landlord about setting up a repayment plan.  Your landlord cannot attempt to collect unpaid rent from you or report you to a credit agency without having offered a reasonable plan for repayment.

Third, your landlord cannot raise your rent, or threaten to raise your rent, until after June 4.  This applies not only to your home, but to your business as well if you rent commercial space.

If you believe that your landlord is attempting to evict you, raise your rent, impose late fees, or threatening to take action against you during this time, please contact Van Siclen, Stocks & Firkins.  We have attorneys here who can help.  

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