The Washington Eviction Moratorium: What it Means and How to Get Help

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On Aug. 3, the Centers for Disease Control issued a new eviction moratorium, which will last until Oct. 3. The new moratorium came in response to growing concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has spread rapidly and uncontrollably within the United States during the past few months.

The moratorium only applies to counties with “substantial or high rates of transmission,” which are known as counties with at least 50.99 new cases per 100,000 residents during the past seven days. The CDC has also posted an interactive map that shows the community transmission levels in each county in the country. As of now, only one county in Washington state, Skamania County, has a community transmission rate below the substantial level. This new eviction moratorium was designed to reach all of the communities that the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was unable to reach. However, once the community transmission rates get down to the low or moderate range for 14 consecutive days, landlords will be free to evict tenants.

In Washington state, the ban on evictions has been extended until Sept. 30 by Governor Inslee, with the proclamation of a “bridge” between housing stability programs created by the State Legislature and the existing eviction moratorium. This means that before the issuance of the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium, Washington renters would have been expected to pay full or reduced rent (which must have been negotiated with the renter’s landlord), or actively seek rental assistance. Landlords were only allowed to evict a tenant if none of those options were being pursued, but they had to offer the tenant a reasonable payment plan. Landlords are also allowed to increase a tenant’s rent, however, they are not allowed to charge late fees on rent. That being said, paying rent is incredibly tricky during this pandemic, and figuring out rent assistance is even trickier. It is important to note that if someone is being evicted at this time, they are entitled to an attorney and should visit their county’s website to seek the help of an attorney.

If a renter lives in King County, they can go to the King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program and, if eligible, pre-register to be included in the tenant selection pool. Every week, King County will randomly select households from the pool to receive rental assistance. In order to be eligible for assistance, a household must not make half the medium income for the household size; one or more individuals in the household must have had a reduction in income, had an increase in costs, or experienced other financial hardship due to COVID-19; and one or more members of the household should be able to show a risk of becoming unhoused or are currently experiencing housing instability.

Furthermore, rental assistance given to an eligible household cannot duplicate other federally-funded rental assistance. Finally, households that include at least one individual who has been unemployed for at least 90 days prior to their application are given priority for assistance. This program uses $145 million in funds from the Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) to help residents of King County pay past, current, and/or future rent and get resources to people in need.

For a renter who lives in Pierce County, the best option would be going to the Rental Assistance page under Pierce County’s Department of Human Services. There, they can apply online or by calling 211 to apply over the phone to Pierce County’s Rental Assistance program in order to get help paying rent and utilities. Renters who may be eligible for assistance include those who are staying in a hotel or motel, renting a room from someone in their family or a friend, using a housing choice/Section 8 voucher, or those who are renting a home or apartment. An applicant for assistance will need to provide some personal information, including: the birthdays of all members of the household, income verification for all household members, proof of employment or loss of job/wages, their landlord’s personal information, a copy of their lease/rental agreement, a statement from their landlord with the past due balance, and past utility bills if applying for utility assistance.

This program is supported by the US Department of Treasury and the Washington State Department of Commerce Treasury Rent Assistance Program. They are currently prioritizing applicants who make under 50% of the area median income, who were unemployed for the last 90 days, or who are working with their Dispute Resolution Center. Eligibility based on those requirements is checked for twice a month.

For landlords, Washington state has a Limited Landlord Relief Program for owners of four or fewer rental units. These landlords need to also make less than the family median income, and the program would allow for those owners to recuperate up to 80% of unpaid rent. This applies when tenants either were not communicative or did not qualify for the Eviction Rental Assistance Program between March 1, 2020 to six months after the end of the eviction moratorium.