Seattle’s Commercial and Nonprofit Eviction Moratorium During COVID-19

In light of the unprecedented worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, the City of Seattle has imposed restrictions on commercial and nonprofit evictions in Seattle. This blog post is an FAQ meant to address some of the most pressing questions surrounding these new restrictions on small business and nonprofit evictions in Seattle.   

City of Seattle Small Business and Nonprofit Eviction Restrictions [Link]

Q:        What restrictions has Seattle put in place for commercial and nonprofit evictions?

A:        Effective March 17, 2020, Seattle has placed a moratorium on small business and nonprofit tenant evictions for nonpayment of rent or due to a lease’s expiration until the earlier of the termination of Seattle’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency dated March 3, 2020, or 60 days from that order (May 2, 2020).

Q:        What qualifies as a small business? 

A:        A“small business” is defined as “any business entity, including a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, or other legal entity, that is owned and operated independently from all other businesses, and that has fifty or fewer employees.”

Q:        What qualifies as a nonprofit? 

A:        A “nonprofit” is an entity that (1) is a “not for profit corporation” or “nonprofit corporation” under RCW 24.03.005(16), or that is  designated as a “public benefit not for profit corporation” or “public benefit nonprofit corporation” under RCW 24.03.490; or (2) holds tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3). 

Q:        Can small business or nonprofit tenants be evicted during the moratorium?

A:        Generally no, during the moratorium a landlord may not enforce a contract or statutory remedy under a lease that would remove the small business or nonprofit tenant from its premises.

Q:        What options do landlords have during the moratorium if a tenant refuses to pay rent? 

A:        There are several options to consider. Landlords are encouraged to enter into a payment plan, or to offer a discount in rent for a specific period of time, to assist distressed small business or nonprofits in rent relief.

Q:        Does this mean that small business and nonprofit tenants do not owe rent during the moratorium?

A:        No. While a landlord may not be able to remove a tenant from the premises during the moratorium, rent is still due and the landlord may still later seek damages for unpaid rent if another agreement is not reached. 

Q:        Can a landlord charge late fees, interest, or other charges for late rent during the moratorium? 

A:        No, landlords may not charge small business or nonprofit tenants late fees, interest, or other charges due to late payment of rent during the moratorium. 

Q:        Can a landlord still pursue an eviction that has started already in court? 

A:        Likely no. For any pending civil eviction action for nonpayment of rent, it is a defense to the eviction that the small business or nonprofit eviction would occur during the moratorium. The Court may grant a continuance to a future hearing so the eviction can be heard after the moratorium. 

For both small business and nonprofit tenants and landlords, engaging an attorney early in the process of addressing issues related to considering an eviction, setting up a payment plan, collecting on unpaid rent, or many other issues can save both time and money for both parties. If you are a small business or nonprofit tenant or landlord interested in setting up a consultation, please contact us.