Tacoma Landlord-Tenant Lunch & Learn 2024 Schedule

LandlordSolutions President Jim Henderson will join Tacoma Pro Bono, Housing Justice Project, and Tacoma Housing Authority in topic-based Zoom trainings on local and state landlord-tenant law. The trainings will be hosted by Tacoma Housing Authority Landlord Engagement Team.

Trainings will take place on the 4th Thursday of each month. Scheduled topics include:

 

May 23rd, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

Source Of Income Discrimination: Learn about the Housing Choice Voucher and holding fees

 

June 27, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

Landlord Duties and Legal Remedies

 

July 25, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

Tenant Duties and Legal Remedies

 

August 22, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

City of Tacoma Landlord Fairness Code

 

September 26, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

Applications and Screening

 

October 24, 2024

12:30-1:30pm

Renewals and Rent Increases

 

Please visit https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QDh6PjVfS5Sqx1VxXA-gFw to register for the Zoom trainings.

Tacoma Winter Eviction Ban Ends

After Measure 1 passed in Tacoma and became the Landlord Fairness Code Initiative, the winter eviction ban became law. Tacoma's winter eviction ban runs until April 1st of the calendar year, which means that the ban expired on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024 and will go into effect once more on Friday, November 1st, 2024.

As anticipated, the expiration of the winter eviction ban created a bottleneck. Writs of restitution issued during the winter ban are now backlogged at the Sheriff's office. Currently, LandlordSolutions is still waiting for Tacoma writs issued on March 12th to be processed. Any cases with newly-issued writs can expect a wait time of about four weeks before the writs can be processed by the Sheriff's office.

The Landlord Fairness Code Initiative also bans school year evictions for families with school age children and employees/vendors of the school district. The school year eviction ban ends on the last calendar day of the Tacoma Public Schools school year, which will take place this year on June 21st, 2024. Although there will be an influx of new writs getting processed after June 21st, we anticipate that this bottleneck will be smaller compared to the winter eviction ban.

Unlawful Detainer Show Cause Hearings in South King County Now 8 Months Out

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, booking a show cause hearing at the King County Superior Court in Kent took 4-6 weeks. Show cause hearings are the first step in the unlawful detainer (eviction) process in Washington State. However, the unlawful detainer process typically lasts at least another month after a show cause hearing before a judgment can be reached in court. By the time a writ of restitution is ordered and an appointment with the sheriff's office can be scheduled, several more months will have passed.

As of Thursday, March 7th, 2024, the next available Ex-Parte show cause hearing at the Superior Court in Kent is November 19th, over 8 months out! This means that if a resident stopped paying rent today (March 7th), by the time the housing provider served the required notices and filed the summons and complaint, the first court appearance for that case would most likely take place no earlier than 2025. During that time, the housing provider would not be able to take even partial payments for rent without risking their unlawful detainer case being thrown out.

This also means that a housing provider may have to wait a full year to receive a judgment on their case. Even when a housing provider receives a judgment, there is no guarantee that they will be compensated for any of the unpaid rent that had accumulated over the time it took for the unlawful detainer process to play out.

In our 23 years of operations, we have never seen such a long wait time to file an Ex-Parte show cause hearing in the King County Superior Court in Kent. Research shows that, although unlawful detainer cases have ramped up after pandemic-era protections were lifted in King County, the number of filings is still below pre-pandemic levels. The Court provided no explanation about this delay and did not respond to requests for comment.

Senator Mark Mullet ran a bill called SB 6210 during the 2024 legislative session in January which would have allowed attorneys to act as commissioners if the caseloads ever too overloaded. Public testimony for the bill included warnings that the system was already experiencing long wait times. SB 6210 was designed to prevent an overloading of the courts like we are now seeing, but it died in the Senate Housing Committee.

Significant Delay for Processing Pierce County Writs

Due to a shortage of personnel in the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, writs of restitution in Pierce County are facing a significant delay in being processed and posted. As of Friday, February 16th, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office has unprocessed writs that go back to January 24th. This delay has occurred as a result of understaffing in the Sheriff's Office, as two support staff have left their positions at the beginning of the year and only one Legal Assistant continues to process writs at the office. The Sheriff's Office anticipates bringing on new support staff team members in March.

As of February 16th, the Legal Assistant at the Pierce County Sheriff's Office has informed LandlordSolutions that she "can't even guess" when the Sheriff's Office will be able to address the backlog of writs. The recently passed Tacoma Landlord Fairness Code allows for a cold weather defense to evictions that protects most residents of rental housing from eviction between the dates of November 1st and April 1st. The Sheriff's Office is expected to receive hundreds of new writs once the cold weather eviction protections end on April 1st. When asked if the Sheriff's Office had a plan to deal with the influx of writs coming down the pipeline, the Legal Assistant admitted that the office did not have a plan to address all the new writs.

LandlordSolutions is putting clients on notice to expect significant delays in processing of new and pending writs in the coming months.

Jim Henderson Appears on KIRO7's Jesse Jones Show

Jim Henderson appeared on KIRO7's Jesse Jones Show that aired on February 11th, 2024.

Just like tenants, no landlord wants to go through an eviction. If we want to stop evictions and homelessness, we need to increase rental assistance.

Rental assistance is an equitable solution that keeps our senior, Veteran, and disabled neighbors housed.

Rental assistance should be the #1 priority for WA State lawmakers.

Best Practices for Properties Under the CARES Act

Under the CARES Act, any housing provider that received federal loan guarantees, such as a private mortgage backed by FNMA or FHLMC, or federal funds, such as housing vouchers, federal loans, or Section 8, must give any resident in their properties 30 days notice before being able to start any unlawful detainer or eviction process.

On January 9th, Division II of the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington found that a writ of restitution was wrongfully issued because a provider of public housing did not comply with CARES Act notice requirements when serving notices in this unlawful detainer case even though the unlawful detainer case was not started in connection with non-payment of rent. The unlawful detainer case was started because of material breaches in the terms of the resident's lease. The court ruled that the HUD's 30-day notice rules apply beyond late rent cases.

However, another case heard in Division I of the Court of Appeals has ruled that the CARES Act applies only to non-payment of rent cases. This means that unlawful detainer cases that are subject to the CARES Act will be handled differently between courts located in Washington State's Division I and Division II until the differences in the rulings can be reconciled.

Please visit HUD's Multifamily Housing Property Search database to check if your property has received federal loans, federal vouchers, or other federal funding. All Washington properties found in this database fall under the provisions of the CARES Act. Check the Court of Appeals Divisions of Washington map to find which jurisdiction your property falls under.

As of January 17th, 2024, LandlordSolutions and our attorneys recommend managers and owners of any properties that have received federal funds or federal loan guarantees in counties of Division II of the court of appeals to issue 30-day notices for unlawful detainer cases in connection with all unlawful detainer cases, not just those cases that deal with non-payment of rent. Please contact your legal counsel for additional details, such as the required CARES Act notice language that must appear on any 30-day notice to a CARES Act property.

Procedural Court Changes for Unlawful Detainer Cases in Pierce County

When a new law is passed, it initiates a transitional phase where courts embark on a process of interpretation and application, adapting their legal procedures and decisions to align with the new regulations. This process can lead to a variety of judicial decisions, as different Commissioners might interpret the law differently until a consensus or higher court ruling provides more definitive guidance. It's a dynamic period where the legal system molds itself around the new law, setting the stage for consistent application in future cases.

 

On 1/3/24, Pierce County Commissioner Terri Farmer’s interpretation of the Landlord Fairness Code (TMC 1.100) requires landlords to file additional documents for unlawful detainer cases. These requirements are effective immediately and subject to change without notice depending on a particular Commissioner’s interpretation of the law. All new documents must be filed prior to the first hearing.

  

Pierce County

 

Tacoma address outside Tacoma City Limits

 

Address within Tacoma City Limits:

 

For all clients currently in the process of unlawful detainer in Pierce County, our staff will reach out if we need additional information or a signed declaration. New unlawful detainer clients will be required to submit the above information during our intake process.

Olympia City Council Passes Rental Registration Law

Olympia's City Council has passed a Rental Registration and Inspection Program that will require owners to pay $35 per unit annually, which is the highest cost in the state for such a program. Here are the highlights:

Rent Control is Not the Answer to Washington’s Housing Shortage

Puget Sound residents agree that housing, homelessness, and safety are the most significant problems in our state in 2023. This should come as no surprise. People experiencing homelessness in Washington state reached 28,036 in January 2023, up 18% since 2020 despite an eviction moratorium during the pandemic. Murder has spiked 51% since 2019 to hit an all-time high in 2022, all during a suspension of misdemeanor laws, no police pursuit laws, and a general movement to defund the police.

The Washington State Department of Commerce researched the causes of homelessness and identified rising rents as the most significant factor that contributes to homelessness. This almost seems like political advocacy—if rising rents are to blame for homelessness, why don’t we just pass rent control to keep rents from going up? This blog post is a strong warning against rent control, which we believe will have the exact opposite effect than what is intended: rent control would increase rent prices and increase homelessness.

 

Rent Control Vs. Housing Supply

According to Washington’s Department of Commerce, rent increases primarily because of a housing supply shortage of 140K housing units to 225K housing units. The Department of Commerce reported that Washington state needs to build 1.1 million new housing units by 2043 to keep pace with demand, population growth, and immigration. If we want high-earning tech workers to move to Washington, we should expect an increase in demand. When more people compete to rent or buy the same units, prices go up. The highest earners will offer more for the rental and price everyone else out. That’s Economics 101.

We desperately need to increase the housing supply to avoid excessive rent increases and provide affordable housing to those in need! How do we increase the housing supply?

  1. Housing providers must be incentivized to maintain existing units.
  2. Developers must be incentivized to build new housing units. 
  3. Banks will only lend to developers if they can be paid back with interest.

 

The housing supply will start to decline if we don’t encourage people to build or maintain properties. Without proper market-rate rents, housing providers will have less funds to maintain older units, leading to their disrepair and eventual removal from the housing supply. If a refrigerator breaks and the housing provider doesn’t have the budget to buy a new one, they are forced to cannibalize a fridge from a vacant unit, taking that unit off the market. 

Apart from the profit motive, rising rents are also driven by many factors that housing providers can’t control. Inflation increases the cost of appliances and repairs (major appliance prices are up over 20% since March 2020). Rising wages increase the cost of maintenance. Changing interest rates influence the cost of credit and operating capital. If housing providers can’t keep up with their costs, they shut down and take their rentals off the market. Everyone loses.

Without the expectation of profit, no developer or bank will risk millions to fund the construction of new housing units. Not a single person in this market is building housing out of the kindness of their own heart. Banks make lending decisions based on analyzing the business behind the loan. If the business behind the loan won't generate the money to pay back the loan with interest, the loan will never be made. Human beings must be incentivized to take action. Without humans building new housing units and maintaining existing ones, the housing supply will drop, leading to higher rent prices and more people experiencing homelessness.

 

Policy Ideas to Help Grow Housing Supply

Apart from market forces, housing costs in Washington state have also risen due to high property taxes, insurance costs, and regulation. If we want to tackle the rising rent problem, we need policies that incentivize developers to build and make it easier for housing providers to keep existing rentals on the market. Property owners that have vacant or unused housing units should be incentivized to bring older housing supply back onto the market.

Policies that help incentivize housing supply growth include:

 

Further Reading:

Rent Control Won’t Fix the Housing Crisis” (Vox)

What Does Economic Evidence Tell Us About the Effects of Rent Control?” (Brooking Institute)

Rent Control, FAQs and Myths” (City of Seattle)

Why Rent Control Won’t Solve the Issue of High Rents in the US” (CNBC)

Rent Control is a Bad Idea That Doesn’t Cut Housing Costs” (Bloomberg)

The One Issue Every Economist Can Agree is Bad: Rent Control” (Washington Post)

Rent Control and Stabilization Policies: 4 Studies to Know” (Journalist Resource)

Examining the Unintended Consequences of Rent Control” (National Apartment Association)

Washington State’s Housing Affordability Crisis” (Office of Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck - 2021)

Housing Shortage Tracker” (National Association of Realtors)