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Councilmember Morales, Council Passes Protections for Renters Evicted During COVID-19 Crisis

Legislation provides relief for renters by ensuring evictions during crisis are not counted against them

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2 – South Seattle & Chinatown/Int’l District) and her Council colleagues passed legislation in an 8-1 vote to protect renters, ensuring evictions that occurred during and six months after the COVID-19 crisis aren’t used against renters in the future. 

Council Bill 119787, co-sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, would prohibit landlords from using eviction history occurring during and six months after Mayor Durkan’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency as the basis to deny tenancy.

“We’re all facing hard times right now and difficult financial choices. Our family, our friends, our neighbors have lost jobs due to the economic situation and are doing their best to survive. No one should have to worry about finding housing after this is over. Eviction proceedings – even ones in which tenants win in court – follow renters like a scarlet letter and make finding housing next to impossible,” said Councilmember Morales. “Furthermore, as research has shown, evictions occur at higher rates among people of color and women, and I’ve repeatedly said this crisis cannot lead to disaster gentrification. This legislation ensures COVID-19 related eviction notices and filings don’t haunt tenants for the rest of their lives. It gives people a fighting chance to stay in Seattle.”

“Today’s vote is an important victory for renters throughout our city and I am proud to have sponsored the legislation with Councilmember Morales,” said Councilmember Sawant. “It builds on other tenant organizing victories, most recently the winter eviction moratorium that our movement won earlier this year. But we also know corporate landlords will continue to try to find ways to exploit and abuse renters. That’s why it’s vital that we continue building the movement to win the complete suspension – without consequences – of rent, mortgage, and utility payments, and continue organizing renters to fight evictions.”

Councilmember Morales and Sawant recognized the unprecedented pandemic has unique impacts on renters. Both aimed to create legislation that reflects evictions that occurred during or after the crisis should not be used to predict whether a renter is a good tenant, as any eviction, especially those caused by these unique circumstances, can alter a tenant’s life dramatically, leading to housing instability and homelessness. 

“It’s more important than ever to have protections for the large number of tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to loss of income. When a tenant misses a rent payment due to no fault of their own, they will have a difficult time finding new housing, applying for loans, or securing other help. The downward spiral can be endless. This ordinance gives much-needed relief to tenants who may not be able to catch-up when the moratorium on evictions lifts,” said Edmund Witter, Supervising Attorney at the Housing Justice Project. 

The legislation applies to non-payment of rent and other common just causes for eviction, but does not apply to evictions caused by actions by the tenant that constitute an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.

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