Sorry landlords, no rent increases during COVID, says Jay. JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES
Big news for anyone worried about paying rent. Or, really, anyone who lives in a place they rent.
On Thursday evening, Gov. Jay Inslee announced more protections for renters that will be effective until June 4, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The new proclamation extends and expands the statewide eviction moratorium, implementing a statewide freeze on rent increases.
“It is clear that as we deal with the challenges around COVID-19, the financial impacts on Washingtonians are significant,” Inslee said in a statement. “People have lost their livelihoods through no fault of their own and we must continue to take steps to ensure they don’t also lose the roofs over their heads.”
The original moratorium put in place on March 18 was only good for 30 days. It banned all residential evictions related to a lack of payment, but didn’t cover all living situations. With unemployment reaching Great Depression numbers and people all across Washington state already unable to pay April’s rent, extending the moratorium as its expiration date nears is a no-brainer.
Under the new eviction moratorium, more people in a more diverse array of living situations will be covered. People living in cars and renting out parcels; living in transitional housing like hotels, motels, or Airbnbs; and on camping grounds cannot be evicted. It’s applicable to commercial renters, too.
Even more noteworthy, though, is that Inslee is prohibiting landlords, property owners, and property managers from “increasing, or threatening to increase, the rate of rent for any dwelling, parcel of land occupied as a dwelling.” That’s big for the swaths of people statewide who have reported facing rent increases in the middle of a pandemic.
Businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 will also be protected from rent increases.
In the residential arena, landlords will also be forbidden from issuing late fees and any other fees associated with paying rent. Renters will also essentially be allowed to break leases in instances where they have not been able to return to their apartment due to COVID-19.
One of the biggest issues with an eviction moratorium is that it does not stop rental payments. It just means you can’t be evicted. Debt will still accrue. People will still be responsible for their monthly payments as they go who-knows-how-long without actually earning an income. But forbidding rent increases—which are incredibly common as leases get renewed—is a big step.
Inslee’s proclamation also requires landlords to offer tenants “a reasonable repayment plan to enforce any collection of that debt,” though “all rent payments delayed through this moratorium will still be owed.”