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Councilmember Dan Strauss Proposes Strengthening Protections for Tenants in Aftermath of COVID-19

SEATTLE – Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle) introduced legislation on Tuesday strengthening protections for tenants who owe unpaid rent from the COVID-19 pandemic. Council Bill 120305 would require that landlords offer tenants a reasonable amount of time to repay debts incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In May 2020 the City Council adopted Ordinance 126081, which established a similar repayment plan requirement, allowing tenants who accumulate unpaid rent during the civil emergency to repay rent over the course of three to six months. Rather than limiting tenants to six months to repay debts accumulated over two years, Council Bill 120305 defines a reasonable repayment plan as one in which debts can be repaid in monthly installments, with no monthly installment exceeding one-third of the tenant’s monthly rent. This repayment plan would apply to any rental debts incurred during the City of Seattle’s ongoing COVID-19 civil emergency, or within six-months after the end of the civil emergency. 

“When we adopted the initial repayment plan requirement two months into the pandemic, we had no idea that COVID-19 would still be with us two years later,” said Councilmember Strauss. “My legislation updates the protections we passed in 2020 to recognize that a tenant impacted by two years of economic hardship will need more than just six months to repay their rent. Giving tenants a reasonable amount of time to repay debts will both ensure landlords are made whole and will reduce evictions, which create housing insecurity, debt for people on the margins, and can often lead to homelessness.” 

Council Bill 120305’s redefined timeframe for repayment brings the City’s protections into alignment with state requirements. RCW 59.18.630 establishes a similar requirement at the state-level for tenants to be given a reasonable repayment plan for rental debts accumulated during the state civil emergency. 

The legislation will be heard and voted on in the Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee this Friday, April 15th beginning at 9:30am. A vote by the City Council may be as soon as Tuesday, April 19th

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