Inslee expands statewide eviction moratorium, halts rent hikes

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday extended and expanded his moratorium on evictions and imposed a new freeze on increases of residential rents in an effort to help residents better handle the economic shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The order comes a month after Inslee announced a 30-day moratorium on evictions for residential tenants, the Seattle Times reported. The statewide ban on evictions will be extended another seven weeks and will include new measures meant to protect more tenants.

Part of the new eviction moratorium includes a ban on residential rent increases during the public health emergency. Commercial rent increases also will be barred if the commercial tenant has been impacted by the coronavirus.

The state Attorney General’s Office said earlier this week that it had received complaints of landlords sending out rent increases during the pandemic, which could, under certain circumstances, violate state law. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office would be looking closing at those complaints.

The extended eviction moratorium will now also cover people in housing such as motels and Airbnbs, on public camping grounds and mobile home owners on leased lots.

Additionally, the order prohibits landlords from threatening to add late fees or charges for non-payment, as well as charge rent for housing where a tenant’s access to the unit was prevented by COVID-19. The provision includes seasonal and college housing in which tenants weren’t able to stay in the unit as a result of the crisis.

“People are going to feel better about staying home and I think this will ultimately help us fight the virus,” Xochitl Maykovich, political director for the Washington Community Action Network, said. “I hope the legislature is thinking about how we can put these policies into law permanently. It shouldn’t just be for COVID-19, because there are plenty of situations where people have emergencies and can’t pay rent.”

Over 585,000 people in Washington sought unemployment benefits last week, with 143,000 people filing claims for the first time as businesses remain shuttered or with limited operations because of the governor’s stay-at-home order aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.