Three Seattle City Council bills related to rental housing will become law without Mayor Jenny Durkan’s signature.
Durkan declined to sign the bills last week, citing concerns about their legality. She also declined to veto the bills, predicting the council would override any vetoes.
Passed by the council earlier this month, the bills will provide a defense against most school-year evictions of students and school employees, require landlords to offer lease renewals in many cases, and prevent certain post-pandemic evictions.
The first bill will establish a defense against evictions during each school year for children and students, for their guardians and for educators — including evictions for missed rent. Tenants will be able to cite the bill in eviction court.
The second bill will require landlords to offer new leases to tenants with fixed-term leases before their existing leases expire, unless there are separate reasons the tenants can be evicted.
The third bill will establish a defense against evictions based on rent debts incurred during the pandemic, with that period defined by Seattle’s proclaimed COVID-19 emergency issued March 2020.
Tenant advocacy organizations supported the bills, arguing the new protections will help tenants stay in their homes. A number of property owners opposed the bills, describing them as unfair and arguing they will cause some small landlords to quit the rental market.
The council vote on the first bill was 6-1, while the votes on the second and third bills were 5-2. The bills will take effect next month.
“While we all have the same goals to prevent evictions, it is regrettable that City Council has passed these bills despite receiving legal advice that they are unlikely to withstand legal challenge,” Durkan wrote in a June 18 letter.
“These bills will yet again open the City up to legal liability and costs, spending valuable City resources that could be better spent actually helping vulnerable tenants to remain in their housing. Unfortunately, given the vote margins by the Council a veto is not viable,” the mayor added.
Several other rental laws passed by the council have been challenged in court. Judges in recent years have upheld limits on move-in fees and a requirement that landlords accept the first qualified applicant.