Seattle renters in fear of being evicted during the coronavirus outbreak may have a reprieve. The City Council has approved and expanded a moratorium on residential evictions ordered by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The council’s vote Monday comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has caused many businesses to close and many workers to lose income.
The mayor unveiled a moratorium on certain evictions Saturday, citing her powers under the city’s state of emergency. Her order says residential evictions for nonpayment of rent would be suspended for 30 days or until the end of the Seattle’s emergency. It said landlords could not issue termination (pay-or-vacate) notices for nonpayment of rent; could not initiate eviction actions in court; and could not advance termination notices already posted.
The council modified and then approved Durkan’s order, extending the moratorium from 30 to 60 days and from rent-related residential evictions to all residential evictions other than those related to tenant actions imminently threatening the health or safety of others. The council’s vote was 8-0, according to the City Clerk’s office.
The moratorium modified by the council covers residential evictions related to leases that have expired or will expire during the coronavirus emergency, and it asks the King County Sheriff’s Office to cease execution of evictions for the time being.
Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht announced Tuesday that her office was suspending the service and enforcement of evictions countywide “until further notice.”
Seattle tenants must continue making rent payments, to the extent they can, and those struggling should work with their landlords on payment plans, Durkan has said. But Seattle’s moratorium prohibits late fees. When the moratorium ends, tenants will owe whatever debts they’ve incurred and landlords will be allowed to evict them for nonpayment.
For existing eviction cases, Seattle’s moratorium should be a defense in court. For eviction hearings already scheduled, the city’s order says the court may postpone those cases to a date after the emergency.
Council members initially considered extending the city’s evictions moratorium to commercial properties, and they held a private session Monday to discuss legal questions, the clerk’s office said. They ultimately decided to not deal with commercial properties Monday, but Durkan’s office has been working on a plan to suspend evictions for small businesses and nonprofits, her office said.
In a resolution accompanying the moratorium order Monday, the council asked Durkan to consider using her emergency powers to increase funding for rent-assistance programs and to provide relief to small businesses and nonprofits struggling to pay their rent and their workers.
The Durkan administration is exploring options to support landlords who may be financially impacted by reduced rental income, the mayor’s office has said. Neither Seattle’s moratorium order nor the council’s resolution addresses homeowner-mortgage concerns.
Like Seattle, Burien has imposed a moratorium on rent-related residential evictions and late fees. Burien took that step Monday.