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Seattle’s new rent hike rules will become law without Mayor Jenny Durkan’s signature

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 13, 2021

By Heidi Groover Seattle Times

Two new Seattle tenant protections will become law without Mayor Jenny Durkan’s blessing.

The Seattle City Council passed the bills last month. The first requires landlords to give six months’ notice of any rent increase, up from the current two months. The second requires landlords to pay certain tenants relocation assistance if the landlord raises the rent by 10% or more and the tenant moves out.

Durkan argues the regulations could hurt landlords who operate just a few properties and face rising costs such as property taxes.

Durkan declined to sign or veto the bills. Because one passed unanimously and the other with a 7-1 vote, the council likely would have overridden a veto.

The bill requiring more notice for rent increases takes effect next month. The relocation-assistance requirement takes effect in July.

Supporters said the bills were key to providing tenants stability in an increasingly expensive rental market.

“Renters who are forced to move because their landlord decides to raise the rent have to scramble. They have to take time off to find a new place to live, perhaps find a new school for their children, and come up with the security deposit and first and last months’ rent money,” said Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the bills, in a statement after they passed.

Durkan cited other city efforts to stave off evictions.

“Taking steps to keep people in their homes during this pandemic, and not adding to the homelessness crisis, is the right thing to do. … But in taking these steps, we as a city have placed a burden for these policies on rental property owners without providing enough relief,” Durkan wrote in an Oct. 8 letter.

The relocation bill will require landlords to pay equal to three months of rent to low-income tenants who move out after rent increases of 10% or more. Tenants must make 80% of the area’s median income, about $65,000 for a single person, or less to qualify.

“Imposing this ordinance with no carve out for our small-scale property owners will compound the hardships they have been experiencing,” Durkan wrote.

Some landlords may sell their rental properties, the mayor wrote, adding that “there are also valid concerns that requiring six months notice for certain rent increases while at the same time setting the 10% threshold for relocation payments create an incentive to include in any lease notice of automatic rent increases of up to 9.99% (thus driving up rents).”

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections estimates technology to set up the relocation assistance program will cost about $1.25 million. “This does not include costs of defending any legal challenges,” Durkan wrote. “That money would be better spent on rent relief, or affordable housing construction.”

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