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Council Adopts Bill Protecting Tenants from Economic Eviction

SEATTLE – Council unanimously adopted a bill today to prevent landlords from drastically raising rents on low-income tenants for the purpose of evicting them without providing relocation assistance.  Currently, if a building is to be torn down or renovated, landlords must give tenants who have to move 90 days notice and pay $3,255 in Tenant Relocation Assistance to low-income households. Recently, there have been reports of low-income tenants’ rents doubling so they’ll voluntarily vacate, all so landlords can avoid paying the required relocation assistance.

The bill Council adopted today prohibits rent increases for the purpose of avoiding the required Tenant Relocation Assistance process. If a landlord increases rent by 20 percent or more, which results in a tenant vacating a unit within 90 days, then applies for a permit to substantially rehabilitate the unit within 6 months, the owner can have their building permit denied until the owner pays the penalties. Penalties are $1,000 per day for each day from the date the violation began.

“Landlords have been forcing low-income people from their homes without providing the time or resources necessary to help them relocate,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the legislation’s sponsor. “Today we closed a loophole, but there’s still so much more to do.”

Co-sponsor, Councilmember Nick Licata, said, “Each year tenants are deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to state law allowing rent increases of any size.  This bill is important to stop what, over the years, an increasing number of property owners have learned they can do as a regular business practice.”

Liz Etta, Executive Director of the Tenants Union of Washington said, “This is a tremendous win for tenants in the city. Every day, we hear from renters who are forced to leave their homes over sky high rent increases. We are thankful to the City Council for this necessary protection, and for all they have done to keep Seattle equitable and affordable.”

If a tenant believes their rent has been raised for the purpose of eviction to avoid Tenant Relocation Assistance regulations, they should register a complaint with the Department of Planning and Development here:http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/makeacomplaint/default.htm

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