Gov. Jay Inslee’s updated statewide eviction moratorium, announced Thursday, is arguably the most far-reaching local action yet to protect renters.
The proclamation protects tenants from eviction until June 4. And it goes further, barring landlords from collecting late fees, raising rents or asking tenants in housing closed due to the coronavirus pandemic — including student housing — to pay rent owed.
But even before Inslee’s Thursday announcement, many renters in the state already had some of those protections — though they might not have known it.
A federal eviction moratorium, covering as many as 19.3 million people nationwide, was enacted as part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package in late March.
Those rules say tenants in buildings with federally guaranteed or insured mortgages, as well as tenants in most housing with federal subsidies, won’t face eviction for nonpayment of rent until July 25, and tenants can stay in their homes until Aug. 23 as they decide what to do.
Landlords in those buildings can’t charge late fees (but they can still raise rents, at least after June 4 in Washington).
“It’s a common sense move. If we really want people to stay home, if we want people to not congregate, you really need to make sure they don’t get evicted for not working,” said Xochitl Maykovich, political director at the Washington Community Action Network.
There’s one big problem with the federal moratorium, though: It’s hard to know who it applies to.
As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) points out in its study of the legislation, most renters — and many landlords — aren’t aware of whether their mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and some might be in the dark about whether their building takes advantage of subsidies like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that also protect renters.
In other words, how is a tenant to know whether they may need to move in June when the statewide eviction moratorium expires — or whether they can plan to stay through August?
“The opacity of this information raises questions about enforcement of the protections,” the CRS wrote. Maykovich agreed.
“This is information tenants and their attorneys need to have in case they do get an eviction notice,” she said.
Using investor portals and data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development on buildings with federally insured mortgages and federal subsidies, The Seattle Times mapped multifamily properties in the state covered under the federal eviction moratorium. Landlords in these properties can’t send tenants eviction notices for nonpayment of rent until July 25 or charge late fees on back rent.
While eviction moratoriums mean tenants can’t be forced out of their homes for not paying rent, tenant advocates typically agree that if you can pay some amount of rent, you should. The Seattle Times has tips for negotiating with your landlord about rent payments.
One major caveat to the map below is that it doesn’t include smaller rental properties, including single-family homes and ‘plexes with up to four units (and sometimes five), with federally backed mortgages. Because data on those smaller dwellings typically aren’t publicly available, renters who live there should check with their landlord about their eviction moratorium status. Landlords of those smaller properties can use tools like Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Loan Lookups to find out if the federal government owns their mortgage.
But if you live in an apartment building, nursing home or assisted living facility, search this map to learn whether you’re covered under the federal eviction moratorium.