Seattle's Winter Eviction Ban: Seattle Apartment Managers Weigh In

By Real Property Associates

Have you heard about the new winter eviction moratorium? The Seattle City Council recently passed a new law that prohibits most evictions from taking place between December 1 through March 1, despite the availability of alternative methods like producing additional housing or providing community assistance.

However, how does this affect property investors? No matter the type of resident, eviction should always be a last resort when resolving dire situations with your renter. However, when eviction is necessary, Seattle landlords must now be aware of the time of year and the rules of the new winter eviction moratorium. In some cases, the new law may not apply to you as an investor, depending on the scope of your properties.

If you have small apartments or multi-family properties larger than a fourplex, this is one article you definitely need to tune in for! Keep reading to learn about why the law passed and how it could affect property investors from the perspective of Seattle apartment managers.

Please note: This article is not a substitute for legal advice, and was current at the time of its publishing. However, this situation is rapidly evolving. For up-to-date information and guidance, reach out to property management in Seattle.

Eviction Notice Letter on Front Door

Why Did It Pass the Council's Vote? 

The winter eviction ban passed unanimously with a 7-0 vote—but many landlords have been wondering, "Why?"

  • With many consecutive days of low winter temperatures and plenty of wet wintery weather, Seattle can be a difficult place to live if suddenly displaced from your home.
  • The new eviction law helps eliminate the risks of forcing people into a situation without a place to live during the most dangerously cold months of the year.
  • While the law is noble in its intent, it fails to address the top reasons why eviction becomes an issue: unemployment, poverty, and low wages.

Every landlord, investor, and Seattle apartment manager wants to provide their residents with safe housing. Eviction is always a last resort, and as any investor knows, not a pleasant outcome for anyone involved. That said, if you absolutely must evict a resident, there are some conditions where the new ban may not apply to you.

What Are the Details?

While the new legislation is aimed at renters who would be unable to find or afford a new place to live if they faced an eviction between December 1 and March 1, the good news for property investors is that the law doesn't apply to every rental home or resident situation.

Rules for Renters

Property investors can deal with a variety of bad renter situations. From refusing to pay the rent to damaging your property, when a resident repeatedly violates the rules of living in your rental, they must leave. Follow the law and provide plenty of options for your renter to leave voluntarily. 

However, as Seattle apartment managers, we caution that if eviction is the only remaining option to remove a resident from your multi-family units, then the new winter eviction moratorium could come into play. When moving forward with an eviction during the winter timeframe, a resident can raise a defense if: 

  • The eviction court action takes place between December 1 and March 1. If the eviction hearing occurs during this time frame, the court can dismiss the eviction. The court could also delay the proceedings until March 1 or order an action other than evicting the resident.
  • The resident earns less than 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The number of residents in a household determines the AMI thresholds. The AMI for a single resident in your property is $76,000.

Chances are, your residents earn an income large enough to afford the monthly rent plus their expenses. If your residents qualify for rental assistance, the law likely will not apply to your winter eviction. 

How Does the Law Affect Investors?

While the new legislation can affect your ability to remove a resident who breaks the rules of your property, landlords aren't without options under the new law. In many cases, property investors could be exempt from the new eviction rules. 

Details for Property Investors

There's no need to panic right now! The new legislation must pass the approval of Seattle's mayor. If it passes, the law applies only to residents in the City of Seattle and will not take effect until December 2020.

Before you delay an eviction due to the new winter eviction ban, make sure you understand the details:

  • The law does not apply to property investors with four units or less.
  • If the following conditions apply, an eviction can take place any time of year (including during the moratorium timeframe of December 1 through March 1):
    • A resident's conduct has a substantial detrimental impact on or creates an imminent threat to the health or safety of the other residents or the property owner
    • A resident or guest has engaged in criminal activity on the property or the public right-of-way connected to the property. This can include drug-related activity and other criminal behavior that affects the health or safety of other residents or the property owner
    • A resident fails to comply with a 3-day or 10-day notice to quit for drug-related activity or other unlawful business taking place in the property
    • The property owner needs to remove residents from the rental unit to comply with maximum occupancy limits
    • An emergency order requires residents to vacate the property.

In other words, if you own up to four single-family properties in Seattle or the need for eviction is the result of your resident's criminal behavior, you could be exempt from the new law.

When in doubt, communicating with your Seattle apartment manager about the changes affecting rental housing law in our area is a smart move to protect your portfolio.

Tablet PC Screen with Icons

We're Here to Help Lead You Through the Law!

A thorough screening process can help you avoid troublesome situations with your residents by choosing renters with an excellent track record before allowing them into your investment properties. However, if you face eviction situations that could conflict with the new ban on winter evictions, let Real Property Associates help!

We stay up to date on all local and federal laws that can affect your investment property business. Real Property Associates can help you navigate a tricky situation with your residents, regardless of the size of your portfolio. We'll also help you with a thorough screening process to make sure you place quality residents in all of your investment properties!

As your expert in single-family and multi-family properties since 1991, rely on Real Property Associates to help your portfolio stay profitable in this challenging legal landscape.

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