Seattle’s moratorium on evictions imposed almost two years ago because of the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until the end of February and then not extended.
Mayor Bruce Harrell on Friday announced the moratorium announcement that has prevented evictions by apartment renters, small businesses and nonprofits.
The Seattle Times reports that the moratorium, first enacted in March 2020, has been extended for at least the seventh time.
“As COVID cases steadily decline, it is time for the city to move away from the broad approach of eviction moratoria and instead make more conscious and focused efforts to assist those most in need,” Harrell said in a statement.
Harrell directed the city’s housing department to distribute $25 million to renters and small landlords, in addition to the larger rent subsidy being distributed by King County.
About 124,000 households — more than 12% of all renters — in the Seattle metro area, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, are in arrears on rent, according to a census survey conducted in the first few weeks of January.
Last year, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a bill that would give tenants a defense against rent-related evictions for six months after the end of the moratorium. And both the city and state have passed laws mandating free attorneys for people facing eviction.
However, these measures do not prevent the eviction process from beginning and are conditional on the tenants appearing in court to defend themselves.
“That can be a huge obstacle,” said Katie Wilson, general secretary of the Seattle Transit Riders Union.
Landlord officials say the end of the moratorium is long overdue and that the moratorium has prevented them from dealing with problem tenants.
“The important thing is behavior, it’s not even about the rent,” said Sean Flynn, executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Washington. Flynn says he’s hearing from landlords who are unable to approach or evict tenants they suspect are selling drugs or harassing their neighbors.