In the conversation regarding our housing crisis, the landlord lobby would have our lawmakers believe that every Washington landlord is against strengthening tenant protections. This is far from the truth. We are both small landlords renting out property in Federal Way and Olympia, but we support reforming our eviction process to provide tenants more time to catch up on rent.
We understand that most people in our community live paycheck to paycheck, so one emergency can push families into a temporary financial crisis. Housing costs in Washington have risen dramatically, and most renters in the state pay far more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. So, if you’re a landlord like us, you are likely renting to folks who are one emergency away from being late on rent.
If a renter is late on rent, we can give them a three day notice to pay or vacate. After that notice period, we do not have to accept any rent and can have them evicted by the Sheriff in roughly three weeks—all within the same month they fell behind. In Washington, the number one reason tenants face eviction is because they owe a month or less of rent due to a temporary setback, such as a brief loss of income, a medical emergency, or a broken down car.
We see the results of these aggressive rental practices everyday. Just look around at the tens of thousands of people in our state who sleep in tents, shelters, or friends’ couches. Our lawmakers should be ashamed of letting these practices continue, especially while our housing crisis has grown to be one of the worst in the country.
Luckily, our lawmakers can take action this legislative session. Senate Bill 5600 and House Bill 1453 are common sense approaches to reforming the eviction process. These bills support both tenants and landlords by increasing the three-day notice to between 14 and 21 days.
It is unreasonable to expect tenants to access rental assistance within three days. By increasing the notice period, many renters will get that second paycheck to help them catch up without presenting as a risk to landlords.
Some landlords are claiming that they will face foreclosure if the notice period is extended by a few days. This is an outright lie. Foreclosure is a long process that requires lenders to have extensive mediations with borrowers to avoid foreclosure over several months or even years. The rent we collect from our tenants pays for more than the mortgage (if there is one), and the rent is high enough to pay for maintenance costs as well as profit.
Like most people with a mortgage, if our payment is late, we have a 15 day grace period before being charged a late fee. One of our lenders does not even issue a Notice of Default until 30 days after the fourth consecutive month of missing payments. We have opportunities to meet with our lenders before the NOD is issued. We can request mediation, which on average takes over six months. At that point, we would receive a Notice of Trustee’s Sale and have six months before an auction, which can be pushed out another six months. After the sale, we would have 20 days to move out. At multiple points in this process, we have opportunities to negotiate and avoid foreclosure.
Tenants only have three weeks to avoid eviction.
States such as Tennessee, Vermont, and Minnesota offer tenants 14 days to catch up on rent. Rhode Island gives tenants 20 days to catch up on rent. These are all states with far lower housing costs—and homelessness rates—than Washington. The states with the longest eviction notice periods do not even crack the top ten of states with the highest rates of foreclosure.
In Washington, we pride ourselves on our ability to lead the nation with policies that support families. When it comes to keeping people housed, we need to catch up with the rest of the country and reform the eviction process. Landlords who agree they are in the business of providing housing should support this legislation which will keep families housed instead of on the streets.
Join us, fellow landlords, in asking our lawmakers to pass SB 5600 and HB 1453 to keep people housed.
Tatomya Wimbish lives in Lacey and rents out a property in Federal Way. Monica Anney lives and rents out a property in Olympia. They are committed to advocating for common sense solutions to the housing crisis.