In light of the unprecedented worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, state and local governments have imposed restrictions on residential evictions throughout Washington State. Specifically, Governor Inslee issued a statewide moratorium on residential evictions through at least April 17, 2020, and the City of Seattle has imposed an even more widespread ban on most residential evictions.
This blog post is an FAQ meant to address some of the most pressing questions surrounding these new restrictions at both the state and local level.
Statewide Residential Eviction Restrictions [Link]:
Q: What are the statewide restrictions on residential evictions?
A: Most residential evictions statewide are prohibited through at least April 17, 2020.
Q: Can a landlord serve a 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate on a tenant during the moratorium?
A: No, residential landlords are prohibited from serving a notice of unlawful detainer for default of payment of rent under RCW 59.12.030(3).
Q: Can a landlord serve notice on their tenants for evictions based on grounds other than the nonpayment of rent?
A: Maybe. Residential landlords are prohibited from issuing a 20-day notice for unlawful detainer under RCW 59.12.030(2), unless it is necessary to ensure the health and safety of the tenant or other individuals.
Q: Can a landlord charge fees or late charges due to the late payment of rent during the moratorium?
A: Yes, the statewide order does not prohibit a landlord from charging fees or late charges due to the late payment of rent.
Q: Can a landlord go to court to try to get a Writ of Restitution to evict their tenants during the moratorium?
A: No, residential landlords are prohibited from initiating a judicial action seeking a Writ of Restitution involving a dwelling unit if the alleged basis for the eviction is for the failure of the tenant to timely pay rent.
Q: Can the local county sheriff serve a Writ of Restitution for an eviction for nonpayment of rent that is already underway?
A: No, local law enforcement is prohibited from serving or otherwise acting on eviction orders that are issued solely for the default payment of rent related to the property. Eviction orders may be carried out for other reasons, including but not limited to waste, nuisance, or the commission of a crime on the premises.
Q: What are the penalties for violating the order?
A: Violation of the order is subject to criminal penalties under RCW 43.06.220(5).
City of Seattle Residential Eviction Restrictions [Link]:
Q: What are the City of Seattle’s restrictions on residential evictions?
A: Seattle’s restrictions are broader than the statewide restrictions. Seattle has issued a moratorium on all residential evictions until the earlier of the termination of the civil emergency declared in the Proclamation of Civil Emergency dated March 3, 2020, or May 2, 2020.
Q: What specifically does Seattle’s eviction moratorium prohibit?
A: A residential landlord in Seattle may not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including an action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of the emergency order, unless the unlawful detainer action or action on a termination notice is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.
Q: Does this mean that residential tenants do not owe rent during the moratorium?
A: No. While a landlord is prohibited from pursuing evictions in most circumstances during the moratorium, rent is still due and the landlord may still seek damages for unpaid rent if another agreement is not reached.
Q: Can a landlord charge late fees or late charges if rent is late during the moratorium?
A: No, a landlord in Seattle may not charge late fees for failure to pay rent on time during the moratorium.
Q: Can a landlord still pursue an ongoing eviction action during the moratorium?
A: It is a legal defense to an eviction action that the eviction will occur during the moratorium, unless the eviction is due to the actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members. For a pending eviction action, whether or not the tenant appears, the court may grant a continuance to a future court date in order for the matter to be heard after the moratorium is terminated.
Q: Is the King County Sheriff’s Office still serving eviction paperwork on tenants?
A: No, effective March 3, 2020, the King County Sheriff is not serving eviction orders until further notice.
For both tenants and landlords, engaging an attorney early in the process of addressing issues related to potential evictions, setting up a payment plan, attempting to collect unpaid rent, or many other issues can save both time and money for both parties. If you are a residential tenant or landlord and are interested in setting up a consultation, please contact us.