Tag: landlord tenant law

Eight-Month-Old Program to Mitigate Rent Hikes Shows Promise, Areas for Improvement

By Katie Wilson

In September 2021, the Seattle City Council passed two laws, both sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, to help renters cope with rent hikes. One required landlords to give 180 days’ notice of rent increases. The other tackled “economic evictions,” requiring landlords to pay relocation assistance equal to three months’ rent to lower-income tenants who move after an increase of ten percent or more. In a state that bans local rent regulation, these laws were designed to mitigate the harm caused by rapidly rising rents.

Since then, other cities around King County have passed new landlord-tenant laws, including longer notice requirements for rent increases, and even some protections—like caps on late fees—that Seattle doesn’t have. But so far, no other city has required landlords to pay relocation assistance when they impose large rent hikes.

The organization I work for, the Transit Riders Union (TRU), along with allies in the Stay Housed Stay Healthy coalition, hopes to support passage of renter protections in several more King County cities this year—including Tukwila, where last year we ran a successful ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. Renter Arc Di wants the Tukwila City Council to pass a relocation assistance law.

“With two months’ notice of price hikes, it’s incredibly difficult to pull together the money to move and pay moving and storage fees,” Di said. “With my current apartment, if I don’t have a place to go when the lease is up, my rent jumps up 75 percent month to month, from $2,050 to $3,500.” Moving expenses would quickly wipe out Di’s savings.

“These large landlords don’t care if you have somewhere to go and will happily take advantage of our precarious situation as renters,” Di said.

Seattle’s Economic Displacement Relocation Assistance (EDRA) program went into effect last July, so it’s been in effect for over eight months now. So how’s it going?

According to a high-level summary from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, which oversees the program, 83 tenants applied for relocation assistance between July 2022 and the end of last year, an average of about 14 a month. But the pace appears to be picking up. By February 21, there had already been 61 applicants in 2023, an average of 36 a month so far.

Of these 144 applications, SDCI has determined that 33 are eligible for relocation assistance; 28 were disqualified, generally because the increase was less than ten percent or the landlord gave notice before the ordinance was in effect. SDCI only disqualified one application because the household earned more than 80 percent of Seattle’s median income, the threshold for eligibility. The remaining applications are still in the pipeline—a time-consuming process that sometimes means tenants must move before they get relocation assistance.

“These large landlords don’t care if you have somewhere to go and will happily take advantage of our precarious situation as renters.”—Tukwila renter Arc Di

When Seattle landlords give notice of a rent hike of 10 percent or more, they’re supposed to include a notice about the EDRA program, which explains that the tenant may qualify for financial assistance. To find out if landlords are actually doing this, TRU ran a survey asking tenants about recent rent increases. Of 105 respondents, 13 were Seattle tenants who received notice of a 10-percent-plus rent increase after June 30, 2022. Of these, only three reported getting an EDRA notice from their landlord.

The survey results suggest several other interesting conclusions. First, a disproportionate number of Seattle rent increases hover just under ten percent, suggesting that EDRA may be changing landlord behavior to impose lower rent increases than they otherwise would. As annoying (and costly) as these increases can be, it’s a heck of a lot better than a much larger rent hike. This shifting of incentives would be a positive side effect of the law.

Second, some landlords appear to be misinterpreting the law. The key number isn’t base rent, but “housing costs,” which includes other monthly charges such as pet rent, parking, and storage, and may include utilities, internet, and cable if these are paid to the landlord in a fixed monthly amount. One person reported receiving notice of a 9.8 percent rent hike and wrote that the landlord also steeply raised parking and other fees, effective immediately. That brought the total increase to well over 10 percent, but the respondent didn’t receive an EDRA notice.

Tenants face an additional timing bind, since Seattle’s law requires them to give their landlord notice that they plan to move in order to complete their EDRA application. That means they have to commit to leaving without knowing for sure whether or when they’re going to get relocation assistance.

Third, many landlords, both inside and outside Seattle, appear to be giving shorter notice of rent increases than required by law. (The immediate fee increase reported by the person who got a 9.8 percent rent hike was also illegal, since Seattle law requires 180 days’ notice for any increase in housing costs, including fees.) A surprising number of respondents reported receiving only a single month’s notice, when even Washington state law requires 60 days.

All of this suggests a need to better inform both renters and landlords about EDRA and notice requirements.

Seattle has encountered some additional challenges implementing the new relocation assistance law.

First, the process of determining income eligibility has proved time-consuming, requiring a lot of back-and-forth between city staff and tenants. “Applications are often missing required income information, which adds time to the process of filing a complete application before SDCI can determine eligibility,” SDCI spokesman Bryan Stevens said. So far, it’s taken an average of 37 days from the time a tenant files an application until SDCI determines it’s complete, which leads some tenants to leave and find new housing before SDCI deems them eligible for assistance.

Tenants face an additional timing bind, since Seattle’s law requires them to give their landlord notice that they plan to move in order to complete their EDRA application. That means they have to commit to leaving without knowing for sure whether or when they’re going to get relocation assistance.

After the city pays relocation assistance to a tenant, it tries to recover those funds from the landlord—and that’s been a challenge, too.

“My little family is quite privileged in terms of income, and even that’s not enough to be able to stay here,” one survey respondent wrote. “I’m exhausted of moving every two years (if I’m really lucky).”

“By law, it’s necessary to communicate with the owner of the property, and it’s often very difficult to determine the real owner,” given that many property owners structure their businesses as quasi-anonymous LLCs or have outdated contact information, Stevens said. And many landlords are appealing the charges, which causes delays. As of February 21, the city had billed $126,738 to landlords, but recovered only $52,578.

These challenges suggest some straightforward ways to revise and improve the ERDA program. City staff should be able to communicate with someone other than the owner, like a manager. Tenants should be allowed to apply for the program before committing to moving out. And the income qualification should be jettisoned altogether—a great example of how the U.S. obsession with means testing creates costly bureaucracy and hurts the very people that programs like this are supposed to help.

It’s also not true that renter households above 80 percent of area median income are doing just fine. “My little family is quite privileged in terms of income, and even that’s not enough to be able to stay here,” one survey respondent wrote. “I’m exhausted of moving every two years (if I’m really lucky). I don’t know how much longer we will be able to live with reasonable access to public transit, which is essential to me as a disabled person.” The survey respondent’s income is too high to qualify for relocation assistance,  “so we have to wait and pay the new fees until we either get desperate enough to take on some (more) debt or the lease runs out,” they wrote.

This respondent wished they could leave before the end of their lease. That’s another idea to consider. House Bill 1124 would have (among other things) given tenants the right to terminate their lease without penalty with 45 days’ notice, if they received notice of a rent increase greater than 5 percent. Since that bill died, Seattle could take action to allow tenants facing significant rent increases to leave early.

Understanding the inner workings of this program does raise questions about the ability of smaller cities, like Tukwila, to implement something similar. Setting up a program that requires significant staff time is a lot harder in cities with populations in the tens rather than the hundreds of thousands.

There is another model out there for cities to consider. In 2018, Portland, Oregon passed a relocation assistance law that can be triggered by several events, including a rent increase of 10 percent or more over a 12-month period. The assistance is a fixed amount based on unit size—for example, $3,300 for a one-bedroom apartment—and all tenants are eligible, with no income-based restrictions. But the biggest difference in the program design is that the city doesn’t mediate the transaction; the landlord is supposed to pay the tenant directly, then report the payment to the city.

A community-labor coalition in Tacoma is taking a similar approach a just-launched citizen’s initiative campaign that’s aiming to win an ambitious “Landlord Fairness Code.” Among other pro-renter policies, it would require landlords to pay relocation assistance equal to two months’ rent for rent increases over 5 percent; two and a half months’ rent for increases over 7.5 percent; and three months’ rent for increases over 10 percent. As in Portland, the landlord is supposed to pay the tenant directly and report the payment to the city.

It may be possible to give more power to tenants, too. For example, instead of relying on the landlord to write a check, what if tenants faced with large rent increases had the right to simply not pay rent in the final months of their tenancy, up to the amount of relocation assistance?

There is an obvious downside to this approach. If Seattle, with all the authority of the city government, is struggling to recover funds from landlords, how many will do the right thing by their tenants on their own?

You might think that four full years of Portland’s program would answer that question. But about a year after the law went into effect, Oregon enacted a statewide rent stabilization law that limited rent increases to seven percent plus the rate of inflation. Between 2019 and 2022, the maximum allowed rent increase ranged from 9.2 to 10.3 percent. As a result, according to the Portland Housing Bureau, only 33 tenants received payments as the result of rent hikes through the end of 2021, most of them in 2018. (For comparison, the total number of relocation payments reported for all reasons throughout the life of the program, as of March 7, was 1,478.)

But thanks to roaring inflation, the maximum rent increase for 2023 climbed to 14.6 percent, so starting sometime last year landlords once again began giving notice of rent increases that trigger the law. Landlords reported making 13 payments for raising rents more than 10 percent in the last five months of 2022 and one in January 2023. A few months of data isn’t much to go on, but, in a city with more than 130,000 renter households, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that these represent only a fraction of the payments Portland tenants are legally entitled to.

Nevertheless, an approach like Portland’s is probably more feasible for smaller cities, and they could take steps to improve compliance. An obvious one is to work harder to ensure that tenants and landlords are aware of the law. But it may be possible to give more power to tenants, too. For example, instead of relying on the landlord to write a check, what if tenants faced with large rent increases had the right to simply not pay rent in the final months of their tenancy, up to the amount of relocation assistance?

Adequate enforcement of renter protections is a problem that goes way beyond EDRA—even in Seattle, which unlike most King County cities has a large department overseeing its landlord-tenant laws. Often the only effective recourse a tenant has when a landlord breaks the law is to sue, and not many renters have the money and time for that. One solution was floated in last year’s legislative session: House Bill 2023 aimed to create a streamlined process for tenants to address violations and obtain relief in superior court, without having to lawyer up. Seattle, at least, could explore establishing a similar “summary proceedings” process in municipal court.

But cities should not let the challenges of enforcement deter them from passing good policies. If, extrapolating from the results of TRU’s survey, about 25 percent of Seattle landlords aren’t following the 180-day notice requirement, 75 percent are. As a Seattle renter who did get six months’ notice of a $130-a-month rent increase last year, I’m grateful for the law, and I know that many thousands of my fellow renters are benefitting too.

Katie Wilson is the general secretary of the Transit Riders Union and helps to coordinate the Stay Housed Stay Healthy Coalition, an alliance of over fifty organizations fighting for stronger renter protections in Seattle and King County.

In Seattle’s Eviction Court, Where the Deck Is Stacked Against Tenants, Eviction Reform Could Change the Game

This story originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Seattle magazine.

The most surprising thing about Seattle’s eviction court is that most of the action doesn’t take place in a courtroom at all—it takes place in a hallway. Along the length of this dim, busy corridor that spans the west wing of the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, attorneys broker deals and break bad news to tenants for whom one extra paycheck, or a few hundred dollars, represents the difference between housing and homelessness. The harried suit-clad tenants’ attorneys strike a stark contrast to their clients, who pace or slump on well-worn benches, while the landlords and their attorneys cluster impatiently nearby, waiting to find out if tenants plan to settle or take their cases to court.

This hallway links two poles of the justice system. At one end: the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project (HJP), which represents low-income tenants and whose courthouse office is a cluttered, 300-square-foot room. At the other: Courtroom W-325, where tenants who decide not to accept a settlement deal can have their day in court.

About half of the landlords in Seattle—both nonprofit agencies, such as the Low-Income Housing Institute and the YWCA of Seattle, and private companies, such as Epic Asset Management, which collectively own hundreds of apartments around the city—are represented by a single law firm, Seattle-based Puckett & Redford. The firm’s pugnacious litigator Ryan Weatherstone paces back and forth in the hallway, occasionally poking his head in the door of the HJP office to yell at the organization’s managing attorney, Edmund Witter. “Stop [expletive] sandbagging me, Ed!” Weatherstone shouts late one morning, when it’s clear that the day’s cases will drag on into the afternoon. Witter rolls his eyes. It’s unclear how much of this is performance, how much genuine frustration.

The stakes are high. What happens here often means the difference between housing and homelessness to the hundreds of tenants who show up to respond to an eviction notice. In King County, where the most recent one-night count found more than 12,000 people living in shelters or on the streets, hundreds of people become newly homeless through eviction every year, contributing to a crisis that local political leaders have been trying, and mostly failing, to address for years.

To become a HJP client, a family must must make no more than two times the federal poverty level, which is $32,480 for a family of two, and be in the eviction process or at risk of imminent eviction. In Seattle, and throughout Washington, a landlord can begin the eviction process as soon as a tenant’s rent is more than three days late, and judges have little authority to force landlords to accept rent after that point.

Landlords can also serve a 10-day notice for lease violations, such as unauthorized guests, a three-day notice to vacate for nuisance activity, or—outside Seattle, whose Just Cause Eviction Ordinance prohibits this—a 20-day notice ending a tenancy for any reason, or no reason at all. These are several of the ways in which Washington differs from other states, many of which offer tenants more time to catch up on rent and give judges discretion to set up payment plans while a tenant remains in his or her home. Another challenge for tenants undergoing eviction: Fees for landlords’ attorneys, which vary widely and are usually paid by tenants, can run to thousands of dollars; court costs, plus late fees and other charges, can add hundreds more. A recent report by the Seattle Women’s Commission and the HJP found that the median court judgment against tenants evicted in Seattle in 2017 was $3,129.73.

“Say you underpay your rent by $20,” says state Representative Nicole Macri (D-43rd), who is also the deputy director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center. “The [state] statute allows a three-day notice to go up on your door at the moment the late day comes up on your lease. You can be in court the very next week after the three days expire, and within a week and a half or two weeks a sheriff could come to remove your possessions.” According to the Women’s Commission/HJP report, 86.5 percent of evictions were for nonpayment of rent, and more than a quarter of all eviction proceedings in Seattle began on or before the sixth of the month, or five days after rent is typically due.

It’s common for people to be evicted for small amounts of overdue rent. In 2017, of the 2,072 formal evictions filed in Seattle, more than 76 percent were for less than $2,500, and 21 were for less than $100. The Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), a large Seattle housing nonprofit, frequently files eviction notices over small amounts of money, including one, in 2018, for just $4. (LIHI executive director Sharon Lee says court records don’t reflect prior warnings or other reasons for evictions, such as violence or damage by the tenant.) The number of people evicted through informal means—those who received a notice to vacate and simply left, or who left after a dispute over rent or other issue that did not make it into the formal court record—is likely much higher, the report notes.

Many, if not most, HJP clients end up losing their homes—if not by eviction, then through court settlements that only allow an extra week or two before they need to vacate. Even those who strike a deal with their landlords—getting an order of limited dissemination, for example, which keeps an eviction from showing up on standard credit reports—end up being evicted, and most of those become homeless. According to the Women’s Commission/HJP report, 87.5 percent of all people evicted in Seattle in 2017 became homeless immediately after their evictions. A big reason for that, according to the report, is that most landlords won’t take tenants with evictions on their record.

If a client takes her case to court, the outcome can be much worse. According to Witter, most cases that go to a hearing end up in eviction, with bigger judgments and harsher legal penalties than cases in which a tenant agrees to pay his back rent and leave.

On a recent Tuesday morning, two HJP clients, Peter and Danielle, wait in the hallway for news from an attorney who volunteers with HJP. While they wait, they explain how they ended up at the courthouse—a story of cascading misfortunes that includes struggles with addiction, homelessness and serious medical conditions. Peter, a former machinist, is awaiting surgery for a hernia; Danielle has late-stage liver disease. They say that a local charity paid part of their rent in an apartment building on Capitol Hill, but they’re still behind by about $3,000—a daunting amount for two people who haven’t worked in months. “I don’t want to sound like a victim, because we’re not,” Danielle says. “We just got caught in a real bad situation.” Peter adds: “I’m hoping that some more time will be allotted to us.”

Down the hallway, another drama is playing out: A tiny, frail woman named Rose (not her real name) is being turned out of an apartment run by a different social service agency over $430 in unpaid rent. Although she slipped a money order for half the rent under her property manager’s door several weeks ago, the landlord declined to deposit the money and taped an eviction notice on Rose’s door while she was in the hospital undergoing treatment for late-stage kidney disease. Rose’s apartment is in a building designated specifically for women, like her, who are battling addiction; before landing an apartment there a year ago, she was on the streets for more than a decade.

Unlike many tenants who come through eviction court, Rose is accompanied by two caseworkers, who both say that putting her back out on the street is tantamount to a death sentence. “There are already thousands of people living on the streets,” one of the caseworkers, a former case manager at Rose’s building, says. “What good is it going to do to put one more out there?” African-American tenants like Rose are evicted far out of proportion to their presence in the Seattle population; according to the Women’s Commission/HJP report, 31.2 percent of tenants evicted in Seattle last year were black in a city where, according to the federal government, African Americans make up only 7 percent of the population.

A DAY IN COURT: Housing Justice Project attorney Edmund Witter spends much of his time in this hallway in the King County Courthouse, often with clients. At one end is the HJP office; at the other, the courtroom where eviction cases are decided. Photo by Hayley Young

Witter comes back with Weatherstone’s offer: If Rose pays all the back rent, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees, she will have a few weeks before she will have to move out. The eviction will still go on her record and she will probably go back to being homeless. “This isn’t a great deal,” Witter tells her candidly. Rose wants to take her case to court and Witter thinks she stands a chance: She tried to pay rent repeatedly, and can prove that she was in the hospital when her landlord left the eviction notice on her door. But in the small courtroom—from which a judge or appointed court commissioner presides—Weatherstone and Rose’s landlord introduce new information.

Rose, they say, has threatened staff members and other tenants, sending one staffer a text message that her landlord describes in excruciating detail. This kind of testimony isn’t admissible: In one of many made-for-TV courtroom moments, Rose’s HJP attorney, Ben Dickson, shouts “Hearsay!” every time Weatherstone brings up Rose’s behavior—but the damage is done. Judges and commissioners aren’t supposed to consider evidence that isn’t included in the eviction claim when deciding how to rule, but they’re human, and they sometimes do. Commissioner Henry Judson says the best he can do is to give Rose an order of limited dissemination if she pays the $860 she owes in rent and $911 in court costs, which one of Rose’s caseworker thinks he can pull together by the following day. But Rose must vacate her apartment in two weeks.

Tenants aren’t allowed to say much, if anything, in court—something that Witter says surprises many clients—and the process is brisk and formal, with testimony and arguments limited to the bare facts of the case. Personal grievances are generally not allowed. “We go into the hearing, and they find out how bad the process is and that they weren’t even allowed to talk, and then they get mad at us for that,” Witter says. “I’m not blaming the tenants; I’m just saying the system is not conducive for us to be able to provide adequate assistance of counsel or for the tenant to really even be able to make an informed decision. It’s basically a gun being held to someone’s head.”

He adds, “This isn’t the best way to do these proceedings, period. We’re going in and doing daytime Court TV and basically having this pissing contest between a landlord and a tenant in front of a person who doesn’t know this area of the law,” he says, referring to the commissioners and judges who hear the cases. Because Seattle has no dedicated housing court, eviction cases are heard by judges whose dockets are also crammed with probate cases, divorces and restraining orders, and who may not have a background in housing law, Witter says.

Witter says he often sees clients with mental health or addiction problems so severe that HJP can’t represent them (with stakes so high, tenants have to know what they’re signing and be able to understand what’s happening), and there are gray cases, like one I witnessed in court on another occasion, in which a man with a diagnosed mental disorder went back and forth for hours about whether he wanted to take his shaky case to a hearing, then backed out and agreed to the eviction while standing on the literal threshold of the courthouse door.

In New York City, where Witter was a supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society, tenants have a right to legal counsel, and cases are heard in a specialized housing court, with judges who are experts in landlord-tenant law. Witter says tenants “don’t get evicted just for simple nonpayment of rent—you have to be not trying at all.” Tenants can request assistance paying their arrears from multiple human services agencies right in the courthouse.

Contrast that with Seattle’s system, which requires tenants to go to one (or many) of more than two dozen decentralized private and nonprofit charities, such as churches, the West Seattle Helpline or Solid Ground. Solid Ground can provide as much as $2,000 in back rent for low-income clients. But the clients must agree to participate in case management, write a budget and set financial goals—a lengthy process that several renter advocates described as paternalistic and patronizing. Even so, Solid Ground interim homelessness prevention manager Theresa Curry Almuti says the group gets between 1,200 and 1,600 calls a month for about 80 slots in its assistance program, of which several hundred are eligible. “We could get three times as much funding and still have people eligible,” Curry Almuti says.

Weatherstone, the landlords’ attorney, spent years working as a tenant advocate, including as a volunteer at the HJP, and he sees problems with housing laws that lead to so many evictions, too. “Ultimately, we care about the people who come through here,” he says, referring to the tenants. “Not every single case is a case that we want to go ahead and evict, but sometimes—a lot of times—it’s required. Management has given them a lot of opportunities to comply with the [rental] agreement, and they don’t comply with it.” Weatherstone adds that landlords, especially small-business landlords, can’t always afford to let rent go unpaid while they wait for a tenant to come through with what they owe. “Our clients have their obligations to meet as well,” he says.

Still, it’s hard to deny that in a county where more than 12,000 people were homeless in 2017, evicting thousands of tenants a year only exacerbates the homelessness crisis. Legislators at the city and state levels are working to mitigate Seattle’s high eviction rate, using the Women’s Commission/HJP report as a guide. Macri, the 43rd District state representative, is proposing legislation in the current legislative session that would take protections that already exist in Seattle and extend them statewide—preventing landlords from evicting tenants without cause, for example. Macri’s bills would also give tenants more time to pay back rent they owe and provide discretion to judges to broker deals between landlords and tenants.

At the municipal level, City Council members Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien have directed city departments to look at ways of centralizing the rent assistance system and to make it easier for tenants to address habitability issues, which are often at the center of rent disputes, on a funding timeline. Longer-term solutions include allocating more of the city’s homelessness prevention system toward eviction prevention. Pathways Home, the overarching approach to homelessness adopted under former Mayor Ed Murray, directs the lion’s share of city homelessness funding to agencies that help people who are already homeless. Referring to the eviction report, O’Brien noted, “When you look at this data, around 550 households were $1,000 or less behind on their rent, and 87 percent of the people that went through an eviction ended up homeless.” Doing the math, for about $500,000, 500 fewer people could have wound up homeless, he says. “That is probably one of the most cost-effective things we could do.”

Weeks after their court dates, I followed up with several of the tenants whose cases I followed. Danielle and Peter were ultimately evicted, and had broken up under the stress; Danielle was living on the streets. Mike, the tenant who had wanted to go to court, agreed to leave the apartment where he had lived for a decade by the end of the month; in exchange, he got an order of limited dissemination. And Rose, whose caseworker said she paid her back rent and attorneys’ fees, was ultimately evicted anyway due to extenuating circumstances. At press time, her whereabouts were unknown.

Seattle Rep. Macri Has a Plan to Ease Eviction Fears

This post originally appeared on Seattle magazine’s website.

Image result for nicole macriSeattle state representative Nicole Macri (D-43) is drafting legislation that could address some of the issues raised in last month’s report on evictions by the Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project. That report revealed that many renters who get evicted owe very small amounts of money, and that the vast majority of people who get evicted in Seattle end up homeless.

In Washington state, landlords have no obligation to accept rent that is more than three days late. And aside from Seattle—where landlords are barred from terminating a lease without cause—landlords can terminate a renter’s tenancy with just 20 days’ notice, giving the renter almost no time to find a new place to live and to come up with the money to pay for first and last month’s rent, and deposit.

Macri says her office is meeting with stakeholders to figure out the exact parameters of the bill (or bills) that she will propose in the upcoming state legislative session. The options include things like extending the current three-day limit to somewhere between 14 and 30 days—meaning that tenants who fall behind on their rent would get a bit more breathing room to come up with the rent, instead of immediately getting an eviction notice on their door.

“What we’re hearing is that folks are being put out of their homes for relatively minor infractions, including small underpayments of rent,” Macri says. “Say you underpay your rent by $20. The [state] statute allows a three-day notice to go up on your door at the moment the late day comes up on your lease. You can be in court the very next week after the three days expire, and within a week and a half or two weeks a sheriff could come to remove your possessions.”

Another problem the eviction report found is that judges in Washington have no discretion to order landlords to accept late rent or work out payment plans; if a landlord wants to evict a tenant for late payment, for example, a judge can’t order the landlord to accept partial payment or set up a payment plan. In jurisdictions with judicial discretion, like New York City, the eviction rate is much lower than in Washington.

Another proposal Macri is drafting would create a just cause eviction ordinance—similar to what Seattle already has in place—for the whole state. Like Seattle’s, it would specify the circumstances under which a tenant could be evicted, and bar evictions for reasons that fall outside the ordinance. The current situation, Macri says, “creates fear [among tenants] about bringing up any concerns with their unit. People are afraid to say, like, ‘I need a new refrigerator, because it isn’t working,’ because they’re worried that they’ll get a 20-day notice.”

Macri says she hopes to have legislation ready to pre-file by next month, in time for next year’s legislative session, which begins in January.