Bringing common-sense reform and balance to current landlord-tenant laws

Legislative priorities change with each new session. One priority that remains consistent is the issue of housing affordability across Washington State.

The housing market continues to see increasing costs for renters, potential homebuyers and builders. Currently, the demand outweighs the supply. One way to address this would be to keep people – especially renters – in their homes.

Some Democrats continue to introduce bad policy focused on several extremes. Their proposals and reforms push more regulations on the housing industry. They are treating the symptoms of the issue instead of the underlying problem. These ideals are not ground in common sense.

Let's look at some common-sense solutions we can do to effect actual change.

I recently introduced a package of bills to bring reform to the eviction process. There has been some confusion surrounding these bills. Let me make it clear: this is not about adding new eviction tools to the process. It is about reforming the process to help property owners keep good tenants in their homes who have met unfortunate circumstances. It is about providing balance for property owners and tenants.

One of my bills, in particular, will bring forward the solutions that would provide that balance. The bill would give additional time to help prevent eviction.

When the eviction process begins, and a tenant is served a pay-or-vacate notice, current statute gives them three days to remedy their situation. What if tenants facing eviction were given a little more time? Research shows that when tenants receive a few more days, they are more likely to meet the demands of their rent and prevent eviction. Most states in the country provide one to seven days to rectify their situation with the property owners.

My bipartisan solution, House Bill 1463, would amend current statute to increase the pay-or-vacate notice period from three days to five days. Those two additional days could be the difference between the eviction process proceeding, or stopping. In addition, this bill asks the Department of Commerce to provide information and education at the time of the eviction service so the tenant knows what resources are available to help keep them in their home.

The difference between my common-sense solution and the majority party's solution is the timeframe. They are talking about increasing the time limit to 14, possibly even 21 days, plus adding five days of mediation on both sides. Under this extreme proposal, a tenant who isn't paying their rent, or adhering to their rental agreement, could now take up to 90 days to make amends with the property owner. This timeframe is too long. This also creates an undue, unfair burden on the property owner. We must consider both parties' ability to maintain their responsibility to their families and creditors; a rent unpaid is a mortgage unpaid, potentially causing detrimental consequences.

My bill is a good bipartisan compromise. It gives more time for good tenants to remedy their financial situation in order to stay in their homes. It also gives property owners the ability to evict bad tenants without causing long-term consequences. As we move forward with the 2019 legislative session, we must continue to focus on affordable housing by bringing the conversation of tenants and property owners to the table with good, common-sense policy.

State Representative Andrew Barkis, 2nd Legislative District
122D Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 584-9846 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000