Legislative Update – The Final Push

On Tuesday, the House and Senate voted on three landlord-tenant bills. For all intents and purposes, this is the final hurdle for these legislative proposals before they will become law.

With all proposals that are considered in Olympia, there is a lot of give and take between stakeholders and interested lawmakers, ultimately requiring compromise. Much like a game of chess, the WMFHA Government Affairs team must assess the political landscape, appetite for certain policies, and the ability to balance various policy proposals with lawmakers.

In 2020, the WMFHA advocacy team managed seventeen proposals directly affecting the residential landlord-tenant relationship. Of those seventeen proposals, four of these proposals passed both the House and Senate. The others have been defeated.

The legislature has 8 days remaining before the last day of the regular session and all business of the legislature must be concluded by 5:00 pm on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Senate Bill 5165 adds discrimination based on immigration or citizenship status to the Washington Law Against Discrimination. The effect of this law is that a housing provider cannot require a social security number on a rental application, or provide different terms and conditions to a prospective resident if that resident does not maintain United States citizenship.

House Bill 2535 requires a five-day waiting before assessing late fees. However, if rent remains unpaid after the five days, late fees can be assessed from the first-day rent is late.

The bill also requires a housing provider to allow for a later due date in rent, when the tenant regularly pays their rent through a government source of income which is not received until after rent becomes due and late. In all cases, the rent must be paid within five days after the original due date for rent. Practically, this means tenants who regularly receive social security on the 3rd of each month, and use that income to pay their monthly rent, may request that their rent due date be changed to sometime after 3rd but before the 6th of the month.

House Bill 1694 permits a tenant to request a payment plan to pay move-in costs when those move-in fees exceed 25% of the first month’s rent. A payment plan is also permitted if last month’s rent is charged at the beginning of a tenancy. Move-in costs include those one-time fees and deposits paid at the initiation of the tenancy but do not include the holding fee/holding deposit commonly charged to hold a rental unit.

Under this new law, a holding fee cannot exceed 25% of the first month’s rent but can be applied to either the first month’s rent or to the security deposit.

Senate Bill 6378 makes the following changes to existing law –

  • Adds/edits language to the new 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate and Summons
  • Permits a housing provider to refuse to accept cash
  • Requires a housing provider to accept a community pledge for the full amount of the rent prior to the expiration of a 14-day notice (effective immediately)
  • Requires a housing provider to accept a community pledge for the full amount of rent owing and other costs incurred after the expiration of the notice (effective immediately)
  • Prohibits threatening a tenant with eviction for failure to pay nonpossessory charges (late fees, damages, other one-time costs) (effective immediately)
  • Requires an order staying the Writ when the landlord seeks reimbursement from the Landlord Mitigation Fund for unpaid rent resulting from an eviction action (effective immediately)
  • Requires that any Motion to Stay the writ be served on all parties (effective immediately)
  • Clarifies that attorney fees cannot be awarded when the tenant fails to respond or appear to an Evictions Summons and Complaint (effective immediately)

Some parts of Senate bill 6378 become effective immediately, as identified above.

This legislation must still be signed by the Governor.

There are a few additional policies we continue to follow in the final eight days of the legislative session, many of which affect financial matters. We’ll continue to follow these proposals through the end of the legislative session.

If you have questions, please contact Mark Melsness or at 253-606-0573.

Missed a Legislative Update? Read Week 1 here, read Week 2 here, read Week 3 here, read Week 4 here, read Week 5 here, and read Week 6 here.

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