Organizers in Federal Way want to see fewer of these.
Organizers in Federal Way want to see fewer of these guys. MRDOOMITS / GETTY

Outside Seattle and Tacoma, Washington landlords can still evict renters for no reason with only 20 days notice. Organizers working with Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN) want to change that stupid rule, and also to secure many other renter protections in Federal Way with the Stable Homes initiative.

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On Thursday, the organizers say they secured over 9,200 signatures, more than the 7,049 necessary to file the initiative, and they also registered over 700 voters while they were at it.

According to a report from the Seattle Women's Commission, eviction is the leading proximate cause of homelessness. Partly as a gesture to acknowledge that fact, the woman who will deliver the signatures to the Federal Way city clerk, according to Washington CAN political director Xochitl Maykovich, is a woman who's been in and out of homelessness after being evicted with a retaliatory 20-day notice.

If voters approve the Stable Homes initiative, landlords in Federal Way would have to give renters a "good cause" for kicking them out or for refusing to renew their lease.

The initiative's definition of "good cause" is much stronger than Seattle's "just cause" eviction ordinance. For instance, if a landlord wants to evict someone for breaching non-monetary conditions of the lease, they'd have to show that the renter "substantially and materially" breached those terms. All of the other "just cause" old hits are in there (e.g. landlords can evict tenants for nonpayment of rent, committing unlawful activity, destroying property, etc.), they just have more oomph. You can read the full list of "good causes" here.

Landlords do have an out, though: if they can prove in court that it's a hardship to house someone, then they can evict the tenant.

The initiative also prohibits retaliatory evictions, prohibits eviction discrimination based on a renter's status "as a member of the military, a first responder, a senior, a family member, a health care provider, or an educator," and allows immediate family members to live with renters without facing eviction so long as it doesn't break occupancy codes.

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The proposal also institutes strict penalties. If the landlord breaks any of the initiative's tenant protections, they will owe 4.5 times the unit's rent in fines plus associated attorney fees and court costs.

Maykovich says the Stable Homes was greeted with broad support at the doors. "We had a lot of Republican-types supporting us, too," she said. "You see an NRA sticker on their door and you think you’re going to have one kind of conversation, but you don't, and I think that's because this is about basic fairness."

Though voter turnout in Federal Way during off-year elections has hovered around 30%, Maykovich feels confident the initiative will pass. "We need 8,000 votes to win. We’ve got more than that in signatures, so I’m feeling good," she said.

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