The City Council of Seattle, WA, has passed an ordinance that bars rental property owners from evicting renters during winter. If passed, it would ban evictions from December 1st to March 1st.
2/28/2020 Update: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has allowed the ordinance to become law without her signature.
According to the Seattle Times, the council amended the original five-month ban to three, restricted the rule to low- and moderate- income renters, and exempts owners with four or fewer units. Seattle’s ordinance would not apply to evictions filed due to a renter engaging in criminal or nuisance activities, due to a resident exhibiting behaviors that jeopardize the safety of their neighbors, or to owner-occupied properties (like house-hacked properties)… but is that good enough?
Are seasonal eviction restrictions a good idea?
This bill (Council Bill 119727) was proposed with good intentions. From December to February, U.S. Climate Data shows that the average high is 47ºF, with the average low at 37ºF, and this potential ordinance aims to keep more renters from becoming homeless and on the streets during the dangerously coldest months. Especially when the average credit score during these months is comparatively low, these renters could be particularly vulnerable if evicted during this time.
On the other hand, bills barring evictions put landlords and property managers in a difficult position. The eviction process can be long, rigorous, and costly, and in the city of Seattle property owners are already under strict “just cause” eviction laws. If a renter does not pay their rent on the first of December, who’s to say if they’ll continue to pay until the first of March? Three months of lost rent, on top of the eventual legal fees for the eviction after March 1st, is a lot to ask of rental property owners.
Now that the City Council has passed the ordinance, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has three choices:
- Sign the ordinance into law
- Let it become law without their signature
- Veto it
If the mayor vetoes the winter evictions ban bill, the City Council would have to vote again, with six council votes needed to override the mayor’s veto. However, if passed, it will likely not affect evictions until December 1, 2020.
Although some states do have laws barring evictions during extreme weather conditions or during a state-declared emergency, this ordinance is in a league of its own. In true Seattle fashion, the city is the first to pass an ordinance banning evictions on a seasonal-basis. Be sure to subscribe, to see what new rental housing laws this city comes up with next.
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