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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inslee extends coronavirus eviction moratorium through June

Gov. Jay Inslee meets with the press on Thursday, June 25, 2020, in the WSU Spokane Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences Building.   (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Adam Shanks and Laurel Demkovich The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – The statewide eviction moratorium will be extended through June 30, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

The moratorium, which prohibits evictions of tenants struggling to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was set to expire at the end of this month. The proclamation prohibits landlords, property owners and property managers from serving, enforcing or threatening any notice that would require a resident to vacate any dwelling.

“We are acting in good faith for a lot of people who we know would be in very dire situations without this moratorium,” Inslee said Thursday.

The moratorium does not apply if the eviction is “necessary to respond to a significant immediate risk to the health, safety or property of others created by the resident.” It also doesn’t apply if the landlord gives the resident a 60-day notice that they intend to personally occupy the residence or sell the property.

It also doesn’t apply if a landlord proves in court that a resident was offered and refused to comply with a repayment plan that was reasonable based on the resident’s circumstances.

The state has provided rental and housing assistance to renters and landlords during the course of the pandemic in an effort to help with unpaid rent left over from a year without evictions. The Legislature passed a relief package that included $365 million for rental and housing assistance, and lawmakers are expecting to dole out more with the additional federal funds coming to the state as part of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package.

Inslee has also ordered the Department of Commerce to distribute additional emergency funds for rental assistance throughout the pandemic. He said Thursday there was already $504 million set aside for assistance, with more on the way from the federal government.

“These funds help both tenants and landlords through these difficult economic times,” Inslee said.

He also encouraged anyone who can pay rent to do so, as it is “the right thing to do.”

Terri Anderson, director of the Tenants Union of Washington State’s Spokane office, said she was “dancing on air” following Inslee’s announcement.

“We were really facing a real crisis in Spokane if we didn’t get this extended,” Anderson said.

Had the moratorium not been extended, Anderson said there likely would have been a surge in evictions that could clog local court systems. It could take months just to get a court date, which would harm tenants as well as their landlords, Anderson argued.

The extension buys time for tenants and landlords to negotiate payment plans and for rental assistance programs to help offset past due rent, Anderson said. For the Tenants Union, Inslee’s announcement on Thursday allows the organization to shift its focus from advocating for the moratorium’s extension to fighting for tenant protections at the state and local level.

Steve Corker, president of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest, estimates that the unpaid rent in Spokane County totals about $90 million. With between $25 million and $30 million already allocated to rental assistance programs and more on its way, Corker hopes that balance can drop to $20 million by the end of June.

“The extension adds to the need for more money, (more) rental assistance. We’ve already thought since last fall that it would go at least until the end of June, so this was not a surprise at all,” Corker said.

Corker’s central concern is that landlords who own one or two single-family residences or duplexes aren’t able to sustain losses when tenants can’t – or won’t – pay rent.

Those landlords, he said, will look to sell, which is “going to have a horrific impact on low-income housing,” Corker said.

Inslee also signed two proclamations Wednesday that extend the utility shutoff moratorium through July 31 and prohibit federal pandemic payment from being garnished for debt.

“People need these supports right now,” he said. “There’s no other way to look at it.”

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.