Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order Wednesday extending the city’s COVID-19 moratoriums on evictions through March.
The moratoriums, initially established in March, apply to residential, nonprofit and small-business tenants. Previous orders extended the moratoriums through June and through December. Small businesses are defined as those with 50 or fewer employees.
Property owners may not issue notices of termination nor otherwise initiate eviction actions unless there are imminent threats to health and safety. Tenants remain legally obligated to pay rent during the pandemic. But Seattle is requiring landlords to offer payment plans and has banned late charges and interest.
“Our region is still very much in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. New cases and hospitalizations are as high as they have ever been, and residents and businesses continue to feel the deep, economic impact of this crisis,” Durkan said in a news release Wednesday, describing the moratoriums as “critical to helping our communities in this immensely challenging year.”
The city needs help, she added, saying, “We need Congress to act” by sending additional assistance to Seattle.
For six months after Durkan’s moratorium on residential evictions expires, tenants who certify that they’ve suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19 will have a defense in court against being evicted for nonpayment of rent.
The city’s moratoriums on evictions have been complemented during the pandemic by similar rules at the state level ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee, including a ban on rent increases. The governor is currently considering whether to extend his rules, which are scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
The city’s moratoriums also are complemented by a ban on certain winter evictions that applies from December through March.
Residential tenants in Seattle who receive eviction notices should contact the city’s Renting in Seattle hotline at 206-684-5700, according to Durkan’s office.
The city has committed $18 million to rental assistance for tenants and landlords during the pandemic, the mayor’s office said.
City Councilmember Kshama Sawant hailed Durkan’s order Thursday and called for additional measures. Sawant has been circulating a petition that calls on the mayor to extend the moratoriums on evictions through December 2021. In a news release Wednesday, the council member said she would introduce legislation in January to accomplish that.
Rent and mortgage payments should be canceled for people who have lost income due to the pandemic, Sawant added.
“Unlike big developers, Wall Street banks and corporate landlords, working people are struggling under the twin crises of COVID and the economic recession,” she said.