OLYMPIA — With the economic slowdown from the new coronavirus moving into its fourth month, Gov. Jay Inslee extended his emergency order temporarily halting evictions and freezing new increases on residential rents.
The extended order — which now runs through Aug. 1 — also adds a variety of new provisions, according to Inslee’s office.
Those include prohibition on retaliation against tenants who invoke the order’s protections, and establishing a defense for tenants on lawsuits in instances where a landlord has failed to offer a reasonable rent repayment plan.
The new order also allows some types of evictions, such as those based on some instances of property damage. It also allows property owners to issue evictions if they are planning to sell or occupy a property, provided they give 60 days’ notice.
The new measure also allows rent increases on commercial properties that were agreed upon before Washington’s state of emergency for the virus was first declared Feb. 29.
“The proclamation also encourages landlords and tenants to communicate in good faith with one another, and to work together on the timing and terms of payment and repayment solutions,” according to a news statement from Inslee’s office.
Inslee first put the order in place in mid-March, and first extended and expanded it in mid-April.
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm said he understood why the governor would want to extend the emergency order. But Wilcox said the hardships on landlords by not receiving payments could ripple outward and exacerbate Washington’s housing crisis.
The governor Tuesday also issued guidelines allowing drive-in theaters and curbside library pickup to operate in counties that have progressed to the second phase of his four-part coronavirus recovery plan.
As of Tuesday, 27 of Washington’s 39 counties have been moved to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Clallam, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Oreille, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, and Whitman.
Several more counties might join that list soon, as Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties submit applications to advance in their opening. King County is pursuing a more limited step forward, and it was unclear if the activities announced Tuesday would be eligible to resume.
The guidelines issued Tuesday allow drive-in theaters to resume if they have a written plan for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Those requirements include establishing a 10-foot distance between vehicles and requiring customers to use masks when they are outside their vehicles.
The guidance allowing libraries to perform curbside pickup or mail delivery for patrons requires workers to wear cloth facial coverings and to maintain a six-foot separation between workers and customers.
Also Tuesday, Inslee issued guidance allowing the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library to provide book orders via mail delivery.