Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle – South Park) and her Council colleagues voted in favor of five pieces of legislation intended to strengthen tenant laws, including new protections for domestic violence survivors.
The domestic violence liability bill, roommate bill, and bill requiring tenant resources on notices were particularly called out in Resolution 31861 which implements the “Losing Home” recommendations intended to address evictions as a main driver of housing insecurity and homelessness, particularly for women, Black people, the LGBTQ community, and seniors.
“These bills are an important follow-up to successful advocacy at the state level this year to improve our tenant laws, such as extending the pay-or-vacate notice from three to 14 days, and requiring a 60-days notice for all rent increases,” said Herbold. “I want to thank Councilmember O’Brien and Mayor Durkan who have also contributed a great deal towards shaping these bills, which will ultimately strengthen tenant protections and help thousands of Seattle families.”
Taken together, these five bills passed by City Council will help strengthen tenant laws in the following manner:
- C.B. 119658 protects survivors of domestic violence from being held liable for damages to a unit caused by their abuser;
- C.B. 119606 allows tenants to share the costs of rent and enjoy the other benefits of living with roommates and family members by prohibiting landlords from restricting legal occupancy limits established by local, state, or federal law;
- C.B. 119619 requires information on the rights and resources of tenants to be included on notices to terminate a tenancy, increase rent, or for the landlord to enter a unit;
- C.B. 119620 authorizes the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection, or SDCI, to enforce compliance to the state law to require receipts for rental payments, and prohibits the requirement for electronic payment options only; and,
- C.B. 119621 requires a landlord to register the rental unit with SDCI before filing and issuing an unlawful detainer to terminate tenancy.
Having engaged stakeholders with the gender-based violence advocacy community, tenants’ rights community, and landlord community, Councilmember Herbold went on to state that the domestic violence liability bill in particular was intended to “ensure that survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for the circumstances of their abuse, resulting in a negative rental history and outstanding debt, and to mirror the issue of liability for survivors of domestic violence established in state tenant law that entitles a survivor to end their lease terms early without penalty.”
The bill introduces a landlord mitigation fund intended to support landlords in instances when they cannot recoup damages in these situations.
C.B. 119606 protects the ability for tenants to share housing costs with roommates and family members to deal with affordability issues. The 2019 National Low Income Housing Coalition report shows that the average housing wage, which is the amount of money necessary for a tenant to earn and be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate, is $36.52 or a salary of $75,960 per year for the Seattle-Bellevue area (National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Out of Reach 2019” https://reports.nlihc.org/oor). This is more than twice the minimum wage.