Bellevue landlord Jaskaran Singh will host a second “Landlord Lives Matter” protest this Saturday against a financially unstable family of five facing eviction from a Bellevue rental home after his protest last weekend caught national media attention.

While conservative press insists Singh faces a great injustice because tenant Sang Kim is “exploiting the system,” the family in crisis told The Stranger that the spectacle at their rental home is just the latest episode in their landlord’s use of intimidation tactics to bypass “the system,” the proper channels of eviction, all together.

The “Exploitation” in Question

Kim, his wife, and three school-aged children moved into the Bellevue rental home in 2022. At the time, Kim said his job related to “business development and procurement for PPE loans” paid him enough to afford the $4,500 monthly rent for the five-bedroom, 1950s home. But then, Kim said, he unexpectedly lost his job in April of 2023. He stopped paying rent in May 2023 and has not paid since. 

According to King County court records, Urbanview 2110 LLC, the company that owns the home, tried to evict Kim and his family in July of 2023. The judge dismissed the case in November without trial because the landlord did not plead a “cause of action” such as non-payment of rent. 

Seemingly learning from its mistake, the company filed another eviction with King County Superior Court in January 2024 that listed non-payment as the reason. When Kim missed his deadline to respond to his summons, his lawyers filed an emergency motion to avoid eviction. According to court documents, Kim missed the deadline because his landlord gave “confusing” instructions, he had to attend to a family emergency, and because of the mental toll that negative press and alleged harassment has had on his family. The judge gave a stay, which pauses the eviction until the judge decides on Kim’s motion. 

“I don’t know what [Singh] means by ‘exploiting the system’,” Kim said. “I’m just going through the legal system like I’m supposed to.”

What’s going on here is that the right-wing media wants to perpetuate a narrative that tenants have learned how to game renter protections passed by the communists in the State Legislature, which is causing mass injustice for those who profit from renting houses. 

Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) led the charge on much of the tenant protections passed in recent years, most notably the 2019 reforms to the decades-old Residential Landlord Tenant Act. 

In a phone interview with The Stranger, Kuderer said that landlord attorneys wrote the original Residential Landlord Tenant Act and made it a “slam dunk” for their clients to evict tenants, creating some of the most unfair eviction laws in the nation. Kuderer and her colleagues made “modest changes” to “level the playing field” in their 2019 edit. Then, once the pandemic hit, she passed the first-in-the-nation right-to-counsel for tenants facing eviction. 

Landlords sometimes blame these bills, or the Democrats more generally, for creating a backlog of eviction cases. Eviction cases shot up in King County to about 55% of pre-pandemic levels when pandemic aid dried up, but it’s unclear if judges rule any slower when defendants have a right to counsel. One lawyer said for the most part cases seem to happen at about the same rate as they did before the new law. 

“The law was not intended to slow the process,” Kuderer said. “The law was intended to make the process more fair.” 

Kuderer doesn’t take tenants losing their housing lightly, but she didn’t make evictions impossible. Between April 2020 and March 2023, the Housing Justice Project (HJP) Eviction Tracker reported more than 3,300 eviction filings. Of those, HJP could only verify 10% of tenants staying housed. In most cases–about 40%—the landlord won and the tenant got evicted. 

Not only do they still come out on top in evictions, the State Legislature also compensated for the new renter protections with additional protections for landlords, Kuderer said. Landlords receive assistance from the State’s Landlord Mitigation Program, the Tenancy Preservation Program, Landlord Survivor Relief Program, the $2 billion in rental assistance distributed by the Legislature during the early days of the pandemic, and they enjoy an exemption from business and occupation taxes on their rental income. 

The State also cut its mediation program when landlords and tenants complained about it slowing or muddying the process. Plus, it's not like the Democrats could even gather the gusto to pass the wimpiest version of rent stabilization known to man this year or any time in the last five years. 

And, of course, the law still offers many more protections for those who pay mortgages rather than rents, as homeowners have months and even more than a year to avoid foreclosure in cases of nonpayment.

But, sure, the State Legislature, which is composed almost entirely of homeowners, has a bias toward renters. 

Extrajudicial Action

While a judge could rule in the landlord’s favor as soon as next month, Kim said Singh is “cutting corners” to evict his family through a months-long intimidation campaign. 

Kim accused Singh of complaining about him and his family on online forums. Singh then took those complaints to reporters in November 2023, putting Kim’s name and face on the internet for public ridicule. Kim’s children accused Singh’s children, who go to the same school, of bullying. In a January text message, Kim accused Singh’s child of taunting his daughter. The child allegedly said “my dad owns your house, bitch” and then asked her why Kim doesn’t pay rent. In a March text message, Kim accused Singh’s son of “leaving poops on my son’s car” and continuing to bully his daughter. Singh responded, “you are making up these stories” in a subsequent text. 

The latest action, the “Landlord Lives Matter” protest outside the rental property on Saturday, left Kim and his family fearing for their safety, particularly when a man with a hockey stick allegedly broke into Kim’s backyard. 

The protest stands in clear violation of a temporary protection order a judge granted Kim against Singh the day before. According to posts from Singh’s supporters on Twitter, the landlord plans to host another protest outside Kim’s house this Saturday. Singh allegedly plans to stay 1,000 feet away from Kim to comply with the protection order. It’s giving “I’m not touching you!”

Edmund Witter, the managing attorney at Housing Justice Project, a pro bono legal group representing Kim, told The Stranger that in the state of Washington, landlords have “always been prohibited from ousting tenants by using force, menacing, or threats of violence.”

In this case, Witter said, the LLC, acting through Singh, is “encouraging harassment of a renter and his minor children” in disregard of the anti-harassment order, in violation of the state’s anti-doxxing law, and in defiance of the state’s long prohibition of coercing tenants in “an effort to cause extreme distress to the tenant and his family.”

“There is no justification for that,” Witter said in a text to The Stranger. 

Singh’s lawyer, Steven Freeborn, did not respond to my request for comment, but I will update if he does. 

Reporter or Rallier? 

But Kim doesn’t put all the blame for the protest on Singh. He said the last action appeared manufactured by right-wing journalist Jonathon Choe. For one, Choe leaked Kim’s address in an open-invitation to the protest on Twitter. Kim thinks the invite did its job—he did not recognize many of the protesters, calling into question Choe’s claim that “neighbors” came out in support of Singh. He also said he saw Choe “egging on" the protest, encouraging participants to bang on his door for videos and antagonizing the cops as if he were hoping to escalate the situation. Another eyewitness told The Stranger he agreed that Choe was “riling up” the crowd. 

Most recently, Choe advertised Singh’s upcoming action, once again posting Kim’s address. He also encouraged his large following to donate to Singh’s GoFundMe, which raised more than $2,000 in its first 12 hours online. 

“Choe doesn’t care about my family, he doesn’t even care about my landlord. He cares about getting a story, even if it means making one up,” Kim told The Stranger in a phone interview. 

When asked for comment, Choe said, “ I really need to respond to this absurd allegation from a serial squatter who’s currently fleecing an Indian immigrant? Please show me proof. Didn’t think so cause it never happened.” 

Kim said the media wants to make him look as bad as possible in order to get more attention. Reporters usually highlight Singh’s complaint that Kim has two “new” cars in his driveway despite not paying rent. First of all, those aren’t Kim’s cars, technically. His son, who has his own job and his own income, bought a used car for himself. The other car—“not a Lexus, not a Mercedes, a no-down-payment Mazda” belongs to his wife, which she bought so she could get to work after Kim gave his car to his mom so she can drive to take care of his dad in the hospital. 

Efforts to villainize Kim do not help the situation, even for the landlord, Kim argued. He claims the negative attention has cost him a job opportunity that could have helped him pay rent. So now Kim’s training to become a paid caretaker for his aging parents. 

Kim also fears landlords won’t allow him to rent if they recognize him from the negative press. That said, an eviction over non-payment of rent would similarly fuck him over. 

Kim didn’t have anything to say about his hopes for his next hearing. Right now, he’s just taking it one day at a time. When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming second protest, Kim said in a text, “I can’t do anything about it….”