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Committee Passes First Two Pieces in Councilmember Morales’ Tenant Bill of Rights, Protecting Renters From Evictions, Closing Lease Termination Loophole

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the C/ID) and her colleagues serving on the Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, chaired by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, passed two pieces of legislation sponsored by Morales that protect renters from pandemic-related eviction, and no-fault evictions associated with end-of-lease terminations.

The two bills, part of Morales’ larger Tenant Bill of Rights, would allow more renters to stay in their homes, both during and after the pandemic.

The legislation that addresses end-of-lease termination, which is jointly sponsored by Councilmember Sawant and co-sponsored by Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis, extends protections afforded under the city’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to all tenants. It also offers tenants a right of first refusal to stay or leave their home, expands tenant relocation assistance protections to more renters, and gives tenants more bargaining power in mutual lease terminations. Passing this legislation will ensure all tenants, regardless where they are in their lease term, will be protected from the threat of a no fault, no cause removal from their homes.

“As recovery is near and emergency tenant protections are lifted, tenants deserve stability. They deserve to live their lives without the threat of losing their homes over situations that they cannot control, like something as colossal as a pandemic or as simple as their landlord not liking them,” Morales said.

The second piece of legislation, the Sound at Home legislation, provides a defense to eviction for any renter who has faced a financial hardship brought on by the pandemic that would have caused them to fall behind on rent. It also ensures that landlords must communicate to tenants that they have the right to assert this defense prior to heading to court.

“The impending avalanche of evictions is a systemic issue brought on by generations of disinvestment in communities of color. This is evident by the fact that two-thirds of renters experiencing pandemic-related rent debt are People of Color,” Morales said. “If we don’t do something to protect these vulnerable renters now, we will face Depression-era levels of homelessness. Our system is already overburdened and underfunded. If even a quarter of renters who currently owe rent debt fall into homelessness, our entire system could collapse.”

Ultimately, the intent of this legislation is to protect any renter who has faced a financial hardship at any point during the COVID emergency, allowing more people to remain in their homes. 

The two pieces of legislation will be heard and voted on by the Full Council on Monday, June 7th.

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