New Eviction Law May Have Unintended Consequences
February 12, 2020
Seattle City Council recently passed a bill which would ban evictions in Seattle for three months during the winter. The ban is intended to prevent tenants from becoming homeless during cold months, but it may also have some unintended consequences.
The moratorium on evictions will be in effect for three months of the year, December through February. The bill included some caveats, for example the protection only applies to renters earning below the median income for the area, and also excludes tenants who are engaged in criminal activity.
But small landlords spoke out against the proposal, arguing they could not afford to potentially lose rental income for several months of the year.
In a recent Seattle Times op-ed, two small Seattle landlords spoke out against the winter evictions proposal and other measures that have made renting in Seattle difficult for them. The landlords said independent landlords do not have a voice at City Hall and argued that this type of legislation only makes it easier for large property companies to dominate.
The City Council is creating a rental market that is more expensive and less flexible. It favors property management companies and larger corporations that have in-house maintenance crews, legal teams, training staff and lobbyists.
The law may also discourage landlords from taking on lower income, higher risk tenants. If a landlord knows these tenants could stop paying rent for a quarter of the year without being evicted, they could be less inclined to rent to them in the first place. Thus, the measure could hurt the very people it was designed to help.
In a memo to City Council, several city officials called the proposal “an unworkable starting point.”