Renters nervous as eviction moratorium nears end

December’s rent is due Tuesday, and for countless families suffering through the pandemic it will be another month they will not be able to pay it.     

A moratorium on evictions is keeping a roof over the heads of a reported 171,000 Washingtonians currently behind on rent, but that protection ends at the end of December.

The Eviction Resolution Program aims to keep renters from becoming homeless by connecting them with mediators before an eviction can be officially filed in some Puget Sound counties.

“I have a tent and a whole bunch of camping supplies in that closet,” said renter Arianna Laureano, describing how she and her roommate are planning their next steps should they become evicted from their Capitol Hill apartment.

Laureano says negotiations with the landlord has gone nowhere. By the end of December, she expects to be living on the streets.

“We made rent for the first time in three months,” she said, adding they are $3,900 behind in past due rent.

“We really want tenants to know, don’t sign anything you can’t afford,” said Be:Seattle Executive Director Kate Rubin.

It is a non-profit, says Rubin, and it has paired with the Tenants Union of Washington to advocate the cancellation of all rent statewide.

“The banks would have to carry some of the burden,” she said.  

A new pilot program will encourage renters and landlords in several Puget Sound counties to work with mediators before evictions are officially filed in court. The program is free and landlords will be required to participate if renters sign up.

 “We keep putting them is this situation where they are staring at the calendar,” said Michele Thomas from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

Thomas says the pilot program will not be enough to prevent every eviction, and urges Governor Jay Inslee to expand the eviction moratorium so lawmakers can craft a relief bill.

Without a bailout, renters like Laureano worries she will not survive on the street.

 “They’re going to have to watch us die,” she said.

For now the eviction moratorium ends at the end of December. A member of the governor’s communications team says Jay Inslee is in talks about its future.