Renters need bailout, say landlords with clients struggling with bills

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee extended a moratorium on eviction for three more months. No doubt, that has been a big relief for renters behind on rent. While there is some help available to property owners, some small-time mom-and-pop landlords worry they might be left behind.

"We have some people who haven’t paid rent since May or June," said Roger Wilson, owner of Wilson Real Estate in Yakima.

Wilson rents out and manages hundreds of homes in Eastern Washington. He says only a few of his renters have had trouble paying rent and his company has been able to manage so far, but he worries about other landlords who own fewer properties might be in bigger trouble.

"The landlords just starting out are probably sweating pretty bad," he said.

"I don’t think most people realize most rental income goes to taxes," said Ethan Blevins from Pacific Legal Foundation.

The foundation sued Washington and Seattle earlier this year over the moratoriums claiming the policy violates property owner’s constitutional rights. The case is still working through the courts.

Even as the state’s moratorium has been extended, some landlords told Q13 News they are running out of money and patience and may soon end up out of business. Blevins says the landlords included in the foundation’s lawsuit are too.

"They have reached the tipping point," Blevins said. "They have to get rid of the tenant for their own financial welfare and they have a constitutional right to do that."

"Most families were 2-3 months behind," said Edmund Witter from the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project.

He says the agency has been able to help some renters eliminate some of their outstanding rent.

Plus, he says federal funding has been able to help even more people.

"The question is what are we going to do with the next few months?" said Witter.

That’s because many more renters still have bills piling up. Several landlords say what renters need is a substantial bail-out to cover the past due rent.

The state legislature could approve millions of dollars for relief. Governor Inslee is expected to announce new details about the extended eviction moratorium this week, but clarity about what happens next for renters and landlords cannot come soon enough.

"We don’t want to see anybody homeless but there has to be responsible as well," said Wilson.