Council Passes Herbold’s Legislation, Increasing Tenant Protections for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Home » Council Passes Herbold’s Legislation, Increasing Tenant Protections for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park), alongside her Council colleagues and co-sponsors Councilmembers Tammy J. Morales and Andrew J. Lewis, passed legislation today that increases tenant protections for small businesses and nonprofits. 

The legislation ensures that rent installments paid according to a payment plan negotiated between a tenant and landlord cannot be considered “late,” and used against the tenant to break their lease.  This legislation strengthens already-existing protections in Ordinance 126006, which was passed by Council in April 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, that protect small business and nonprofit tenants from rent increases during the declared civil emergency, and require landlords to accept late rent paid according to a payment plan during the civil emergency and for six months following with no late fees, interest, or other charges added.

“I hope this legislation encourages small businesses, nonprofits, and their landlords to have productive conversations about what it will take to keep the businesses and nonprofits in place, while making their lessors financially whole,” Councilmember Herbold said. “With the current commercial eviction moratorium scheduled to be lifted June 30, it’s essential that small businesses and nonprofits know about these protections, and come to the table to negotiate plans that will protect Seattle’s beloved small businesses and the essential nonprofits who serve their communities.” 

“We know that, prior to the pandemic, commercial tenants have nearly no protection. This legislation is necessary because while some landlords are operating in good faith and collaborating with their tenants, others are using this small loophole. While this is a technical amendment, it serves as a reminder that these emergency protections are non-negotiable and that commercial tenants will need these protections well beyond the end of this pandemic. As our city starts to face more and more disaster gentrification, I hope to see this and other emergency commercial tenant protections made permanent,” Councilmember Morales said.

“As a city, we must continue to balance the needs of both tenants and lessors, and payment plans are a way to provide flexibility to the tenant, while ensuring the property owner is fairly compensated. We’re really hoping businesses and their lessors will continue working together, so we can come out of this pandemic stronger and continue to have our vital small businesses and vibrant business districts,” said Councilmember Lewis. 

With this legislation in place, small businesses and nonprofits should expect:

  • Commercial rent control, by way of a moratorium on rent increases for small businesses and nonprofits, as long as the civil emergency persists 
  • Requires lessors to accept late rent paid in installments according to a payment plan during the civil emergency, and for six months following.   
    • The parameters of an acceptable payment plan are: 
      • Can’t require the small business or nonprofit to pay more than 1/3 of late rent within any month or period 
      • All late rent must be repaid within a year of the end of the civil emergency; and  
      • No late fees, interest or other charges can be added. 

Small business and nonprofit tenants interested in receiving assistance to exercise these protections can contact the City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) to learn more, receive technical assistance, and find a lease amendment toolkit.  Call OED at (206) 684-8090 from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email OED at anytime. Translation is available.  OED also maintains lists of resources for businesses and nonprofits impacted by the pandemic.  

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