The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for us all. If one thing has been made clear over the last month, it’s that we’re not out of the woods just yet.
For landlords and those in the rental management business, part of our ever-changing responsibility is to continue to keep up to date on the rules that come with the new normal. Doing so while juggling what’s best for our tenants and what’s best for our business is no small task.
Washington State Rental Eviction Moratorium During COVID-19
Since the early days of the pandemic, state and federal laws have been passed to protect renters from eviction. Tenants, landlords and rental management professionals alike have been keeping close watch ever since to see if the eviction moratoriums would end or be extended.
Here in Washington, renters have been shielded from evictions by a statewide moratorium since April. That moratorium was set to expire at the beginning of August, but Governor Jay Inslee recently announced at a press conference that it would be extended through Oct 15. That means that, while eviction is never a rental manager’s first or preferred choice, it continues to not be an option for most of us, at least for a few more months. At a time when renters and those they rent from are equally vulnerable, the situation continues to raise some serious issues.
One detail of the eviction moratorium in Washington is that landlords must offer tenants a reasonable payment plan if they are unable to pay the rent. The law also stipulates that landlords cannot serve tenants a notice of eviction unless said tenants are causing an imminent threat to health, safety, or property. And for the record, having COVID-19 doesn’t count. No one can be evicted for getting sick.
The only other reason to evict a tenant under the current law is if the landlord wants to sell the property or move into it themselves. In this case, the tenant must be given at least 60 days’ notice.
Working with Tenants to Avoid Eviction
If you have tenants who won’t or can’t pay rent, then it’s in everyone’s best interest to try to reach a solution that works for all parties. Even under ideal circumstances, evicting a tenant for nonpayment and then trying to fill the vacancy is a costly and time-consuming course of action.
The details of the agreement you reach are up to you, but it helps to start from a position that balances realism and compassion. Let tenants know that you understand the struggles they’re facing, but also make it clear that livelihood also depends on collecting rent. If you are able to collect partial rent and have tenants make up the balance at a later date, that is far more preferable than collecting no rent at all.
Of course, while it’s both preferable and legally required to show compassion to tenants who have lost income during to the pandemic, it’s also important not to let others take advantage of that fact. While most tenants are honest and hardworking, there may be those who would use the pandemic as an excuse. Make it clear to tenants that if their income has not been affected by COVID-19, then they will be expected to pay rent in full.
Contact us today to learn more about Washington state rental management rules for evictions during COVID-19, and find the answers to all your rental management questions.