Renters in arrears

The proportion of renters facing eviction varies widely in different regions of the U.S., according to Surgo Ventures, which describes itself as an "action tank."

PACIFIC COUNTY — As of early July, the data-analysis group Surgo Ventures broadly estimated that 13% of Pacific County renters were behind in paying rent, owing an average of $2,815.

With a nationwide moratorium of evictions ending Saturday, July 31, Washington state will fall back upon a "bridge" program that aims to help renters catch up with arrears and compensate landlords. It remains to be seen how effective this will be in keeping roofs over local heads.

About 234 Pacific County households are at risk of eviction, Surgo estimated (precisionforcovid.org/rental_arrears). They owe landlords a total of nearly $660,000.

Surgo thinks Grays Harbor County has the highest percentage of renters facing eviction in Western Washington. Statewide, Yakima County was estimated to have highest proportion of rents in arrears, with about one in six renters facing eviction. This pales in comparison to some counties in the U.S. South, where up to one-third of renting families face loss of their home.

In anticipation of the end of federal eviction protections first ordered by the CDC in March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a “bridge” proclamation on June 24 between the eviction moratorium and the housing stability programs put in place by the Legislature. The bridge is effective through Sept. 30.

More than $650 million of federal relief dollars allocated to assist renters is predicted to be available beginning in July. This is in addition to the $500 million dollars previously released by the Department of Commerce to local governments for rental assistance and is supposed to help more than 80,000 landlords and renters.

“As we all know, covid has had a significant economic impact on our state and a lot of Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships. That is why I put an eviction moratorium in place last year,” Inslee said during a press conference and followup press release. “These are all reasonable steps and will help ensure that renters and landlords have the opportunity to receive support and resources that are available to them.”

The eviction moratorium bridge will allow for a transition to the tenant protections established in SB 5160, including the Eviction Resolution pilot programs and the Right to Counsel program for indigent tenants.

The bridge is not an extension of the existing eviction moratorium, first declared in March 2020. Under the new order, new provisions are intended to support renters and landlords until resources and programs become available.

For past rent due from Feb. 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant until there is an operational rental assistance program and eviction resolution program in place in their county. Additionally, landlords are prohibited from treating past unpaid rent or other charges as an enforceable debt until the landlord and tenant have been provided with an opportunity to resolve nonpayment through an eviction resolution pilot program.

Beginning Aug. 1, renters are expected to pay full rent, reduced rent negotiated with landlord, or actively seek rental assistance funding. Landlords may only evict a tenant if none of those actions are being taken but must offer the tenant a reasonable re-payment plan before beginning the eviction process. Tenants must also be provided, in writing, the services and support available.

Hotels and motels, Airbnbs, long-term care facilities and other non-traditional housing are exempt from the order.

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