The Seattle City Council has passed a bill that would require landlords to offer payment plans to residential tenants after the coronavirus emergency ends.
Tenants who fail to pay rent during Seattle’s declared emergency and during the six months after the emergency is ended would have the right to pay those debts in installments. The council voted unanimously Monday.
The payment-schedule bill would add another layer of coronavirus-related legislation to relationships between landlords and tenants. Seattle placed a moratorium on most evictions in March, and Washington state has established a similar moratorium. Last week, the council and Mayor Jenny Durkan decided to provide residential tenants with a special defense against rent-related evictions for six months after the city’s moratorium ends.
Because the payment-schedule bill written by Council President M. Lorena González and Councilmember Lisa Herbold is emergency legislation, it needs Durkan’s signature to take effect. The mayor has yet to review it, spokeswoman Kelsey Nyland said Wednesday.
Under a default schedule in the bill, tenants would pay overdue rent in consecutive and equal monthly installments. Up to one month of overdue rent would be paid in three installments; over one month and up to two months of overdue rent would be paid in five installments; and over two months of rent would be paid in six installments. Tenants would have the right to propose alternative payment plans that landlords could accept or reject.
The bill would prohibit late fees and interest from accruing until a year after the termination of Seattle’s coronavirus emergency.
González said she proposed the bill because tenants who have lost income in the pandemic are worried about having to pay lump sums of overdue rent when the eviction moratoriums end. The moratoriums are set to expire on June 4, though they were extended before and could be extended again.
The council also approved a bill Monday that would prohibit landlords from denying tenancy to residential renters based on any eviction actions brought against those renters during Seattle’s coronavirus emergency and during the six months after the emergency is terminated. The exception would be eviction actions related to health and safety threats.
Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant sponsored the eviction-history bill, which passed 8-1. Councilmember Alex Pedersen cast the only vote against it.