June 3rd 2020 COVID-19 Legal Update for Washington
On June 2, 2020 Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 20-19.2, which extends and modifies the existing tenant protections through August 1, 2020. This legal update covers all prohibitions in place and highlights modifications to the prior rule.
Under Proclamation 20-19.2, Landlords may not:
- Serve, enforce, or threaten to serve or enforce any notice requiring residents to vacate the premises.
- Seek, enforce, or threaten to seek or enforce any judicial eviction action.
- There still is an exception to the prohibitions above (Numbers 1 & 2) if the Landlord attaches an affidavit attesting that the action is necessary to respond to a significant and immediate risk to the health or safety of others created by the resident. The new proclamation somewhat clarified that a “significant and immediate risk to the health, safety, or property of others created by the resident”:
- is one that is described with particularity, and cannot be established on the basis of the resident’s own health condition or disability;
- excludes the situation in which a resident who may have been exposed to, or contracted, the COVID-19, or is following Department of Health guidelines regarding isolation or quarantine; and
- excludes circumstances that are not urgent in nature, such as conditions that were known or knowable to the landlord, property owner, or property manager prior to the pandemic but regarding which that entity took no action.
The new Proclamation added a second exception if the Landlord provides at least 60 days’ written notice of intent to (i) personally occupy the premises as a primary residence, or (ii) sell the property.
- Assess or threaten to assess late fees for any nonpayment on or after February 29, 2020.
- Assess or threaten to assess rent or other charges for any period the resident did not have access or could not occupy the unit due to COVID-19.
- Treat unpaid rent or other charges as enforceable debt that is owed where nonpayment resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak and such nonpayment occurred after February 29, 2020. This prohibition applies to third party debt collection, threat of collection, filing for eviction, withholding a security deposit, billing or invoicing, reporting such debts to credit bureaus, or other conduct. As before, this particular prohibition does not apply if the landlord can show that the resident was offered and refused or failed to comply with a reasonable payment plan based upon the residents’ finances, health, and other circumstances. The new Proclamation added that failure to provide a reasonable re-payment plan is a defense to any lawsuit or other attempt to collect a debt.
- Increase or threaten to increase rent.
- Retaliate against anyone who invokes their rights under the moratoria or any other law providing rights for residential dwellings. This is a new protection with potentially very broad application given the number of tenant protections that exist. However, the provision expressly does not apply to “reasonable communications” with residents about re-payment plans.
The tenant protections herein apply to anyone who has lawfully resided anywhere for 14-days, including roommates not on a lease, Airbnb guests, camping areas, motels/hotels, and transient housing.
This article is not intended as legal advice. Please obtain advice of an attorney for any policy change or decisions regarding residential and commercial landlord-tenant matters.