If you're a renter in this city, you don't have a very strong set of housing rights. You certainly don't have the right to prevent your monthly rent from skyrocketing, almost overnight, at a landlord's whim. In too many cases, displaced low-income tenants don't receive much-needed relocation assistance due to legal loopholes, says Seattle City Council member Nick Licata in a recent blog post. And, as Licata points out, laws around tenants rights are increasingly important for Seattle as we face some of the highest rent spikes anywhere in the country.

But state lawmakers are working right now to throw renters a bone. Last week, state senators David Frockt (D-46) and Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) introduced a bill, SB 6292, that would require landlords to provide 90 days notice—rather than just 30—for "any new rule of tenancy," including rent hikes. It would also expand eligibility for relocation assistance to those making 80 percent of an area's median income, up from 50 percent.

"Each year more and more tenants find out they were deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to loop holes created by state law," Licata writes. In committee testimony last week, Senator Kohl-Welles said she's co-sponsoring the bill because a group of her constituents near the Ballard Locks "got up one morning and found there was an eviction notice to be gone within 20 days."

The building's new owners had decided to renovate the building. If renters returned after the renovations, they would face doubled rents. "As it turns out," she said, "there wasn't very good communication with tenants"—largely seniors who'd lived there for decades.

"They were scared... They should have had the opportunity to have a lengthier time of notice, and secondly, to have tenant relocation assistance," she said, instead of the $500 gift certificates they were offered.

Another bill would streamline the tenant screening process so that renters don't have to pay for virtually duplicate background checks for each apartment they're interested in renting. Several renters testified to spending hundreds of dollars on fees for multiple, separate screening reports during their searches for housing. Landlords—Washington Apartment Association, Rental Housing Association of Washington, and others—were unanimous and shrill (with one exception) in their testimony against that bill.

This is common-sense stuff. In the absence of robust citywide regulations of rental units (state law, Licata argues, ties cities' hands in this regard), it's great to see the state take up proposals to protect vulnerable tenants. The Tenants Union has more info and contacts for legislators.