In the city of Seattle, a new law was just passed regarding the rights of residents and landlord obligations. We’re explaining that law and taking a look at what it will mean for anyone who owns rental property in Seattle.
Seattle Property Management: Winter Ban on Evictions
Just this last week, the Seattle City Council passed a ban on evictions during three months out of the year. Initially, the proposed law was even broader and covered five months of the year. After some negotiations, the final version of the law covers three months.
This is happening right now, so details are still emerging. But, the basics are this: During the months of December, January, and February, you cannot evict a resident in the city of Seattle over a money-related lease violation. This means that if your tenant hasn’t paid rent or is behind on rental payments, you cannot evict until after that period has ended.
When you have to evict a resident due to criminal activity or because you issued a Notice to Comply and the resident didn’t come into compliance with the lease agreement, you can still move ahead with your eviction. But, if you’re planning to remove a resident due to a rent issue, there will be no way to conduct your eviction during the winter.
Support and Rationale: Unanimous Council Vote
It’s perhaps difficult for landlords and investors to understand the rationale behind this law. If you own rental property in Seattle, you’re obligated to meet the monthly mortgage payments or the requirements of your debt service, whatever they happen to be. So, forecasting your cash flow on a 12-month basis might seem risky now. You might be thinking it’s perhaps safer and more conservative to factor in nine months of cash flow only.
The rationale for this law is to keep people off the street during the coldest months of the year. Those who support this bill believe that any residents who are evicted during these months may have nowhere to go and could end up homeless.
The City Council voted for this bill 7 – 0 vote. The unanimous support was not even close to being in question. The Seattle legislative process is such that there is a 30 day period before the bill gets to the mayor for signature. The mayor has already expressed concerns about whether this bill is a good idea for the people of Seattle, and it’s very possible she won’t sign it.
However, the City Council can override a mayoral veto with six council members voting to do so. The full seven council members support this law, so it’s very likely the law will go through.
Once it does pass, it will take effect immediately. So, investors and landlords can expect it to be law next month.
Obviously, it doesn’t mean much for your Seattle rental properties this year. February will have passed, so we’re really talking about enforcement next winter.
Homeless Statistics in Seattle
Seattle’s rate of homelessness has been rising, but the reasoning for this law doesn’t make much sense to real estate investors and landlords. No one wants to think about putting people out on the streets during cold winter months, but trying to blame homelessness on housing providers is perhaps not the best way to solve the problem.
Statistically in Seattle, there isn’t a higher incidence of homelessness during those winter months. There is no data to suggest that people are more likely to be homeless from December to February, but the thinking and the reasoning is that being homeless during those months is more dangerous than being homeless during other months of the year.
According to the statistics we’ve gathered and analyzed at Mynd, there were 550 evictions enforced in Seattle during December, January, and February last year. So, we’re talking a law that will likely only affect a small portion of the population.
Exceptions and Evolving Details: The Importance of Seattle Property Management
As with every law affecting landlords and their residents, there are some exceptions.
For example, if you own four units or less in the city of Seattle, you are exempt from this law. If your resident is a high wage earner, you can also get an exemption. But, for the majority of Seattle landlords, the evictions that would occur are going to fall under this three month ban.
It’s an excellent reason to begin working with a professional Seattle property manager, if you aren’t already.
As you know, landlords still have to make payments on mortgages. You still have to keep up with your taxes and insurance. An extra burden is placed on you financially if your residents aren’t paying rent.
This new law does not mean that you can’t evict. It simply means that you have to postpone the process and wait until after the specific time period has expired.
There are a lot of intricacies involved. If you find yourself needing to evict a tenant from December to February, we strongly recommend that you speak to an attorney and get some advice from a property manager. You’ll need to know whether any of the exemptions apply to you. It’s also important to note that when you go ahead with the eviction, the resident will have to submit a specific defense that indicates they would fall under the protection of this law.
Use a Seattle property management company that is well aware of the city ordinances coming into effect. You can easily get tripped up by all the new laws and regulations, and then you’ll find yourself in the middle of trying to undo an expensive mistake.
This new ban on winter evictions is just a new hurdle that landlords in Seattle have to deal with. We can help. Contact us at Mynd Property Management for more information. We expect to provide more resources and information as the law evolves.
To get more involved in real estate investing, we invite you to check out our Facebook group. It’s called Master Mynd, and it’s a real estate investors’ club, where you can exchange ideas with other owners. Check out our weekly podcast as well, called The Myndful Investor. We invite leaders in real estate and property management to talk about their success and, more importantly, their failures. There’s a lot to learn from this relatable content.