SPOKANE, Wash. — A vote on two proposed ordinances that could impose stiffer requirements on Spokane landlords has been delayed until March 1. 

Spokane City Council President-elect Breean Beggs says there is a chance that the council could move the vote up or push it back, but he does not anticipate it moving up. 

Both proposals were labeled as "emergency ordinances," which means the city council could have taken a final vote at a meeting on Dec. 9. 

If the ordinances received five "yes" votes, they would have gone into effect on Monday, city spokesperson Marlene Feist said. 

The proposals comes amid what some city council members are calling a housing emergency that “poses a danger to the health, welfare, and safety of many low-income people.”

The average rent in Spokane is a little over $1,000 a month, according to rent trend website RentCafe. Right now, landlords are able to raise rents as much as they want, and they don't have to help renters who have to move because they can't afford the new payment. 

The Spokane City Council began holding meetings to discuss ideas on dealing with the area's housing problems in January.  

The set of emergency ordinances tackle eviction protection and relocation fees.

In July, two Washington laws installed new protections for renters in the state. Both laws work to give tenants more time to deliver rent payments or to move out preceding rent hikes.

First proposal: Rental relocation assistance

A rental relocation assistance program is the first ordinance under consideration in Spokane. Under the proposed legislation, a landlord would have to pay $2,000 and refund all deposits within a week of any rent increase that the tenant is unable to afford.

The rent is considered unaffordable under the ordinance if it increases by more than 5% in any calendar year and the tenant meets the definition of “rent-burdened.”

A landlord that receives this notice from a tenant would be allowed to obtain all household income information from the tenant and file a written appeal to the Hearing Examiner if the landlord believes the tenant is not rent-burdened.

Portland passed a similar ordinance in 2017 that required landlords to pay for the moving costs of some tenants. The “relocation assistance” ordinance mandates that if a landlord raises the rent on a tenant by more than 10 percent or evicts a tenant without cause, the tenant can then demand the landlord reimburse them for moving costs up to $4,500. 

The program in Spokane would be funded by annual business registration fees from those who rent property in Spokane and fines or penalties associated with violations of the rental housing code. 

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The proposed legislation also provides other protections for Spokane tenants, including 90 days' written notice of a rent increase from a landlord.

Total deposits would be limited to one month’s rent under the proposal and total fees, which are one-time, non-refundable payments, would be capped at 25% of one month’s rent under the legislation. Pet deposits would be limited to 25% of one month’s rent or $150, whichever is higher.

The proposal also outlines requirements for the condition of housing. A tenant who notices a problem in need of repair could notify the city, which would then notify the landlord within five days. The landlord would have 30 days to fix any problems after this notice unless the city negotiates a longer period.

Second proposal: No-cause eviction protection

The second of the pair of ordinances would require Spokane to establish “specific causes” for which landlords and property management companies can terminate a rental agreement.

The seven reasons landlords could cite for eviction include failure to pay rent; material violation by the tenant of any provision of state law; to allow the landlord or member of their family to occupy the unit; to perform improvements which will make the unit temporarily uninhabitable; to perform substantial rehabilitation work; to withdraw the units from the market; or to demolish or permanently remove a rental unit from housing use.

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Under the proposal, the landlord must state the cause of the tenants’ eviction, provide 30 days' notice to the tenant and allow the tenant 14 days to remedy any of the causes of eviction.

For week-to-week tenancy, these numbers change to seven days and four days.

If a tenant receives two violations within the previous six months, they do not have the right to remedy a third violation under the proposed law.

Burien is the second Washington city to pass similar renter protection laws. An ordinance that went into effect in October established “just cause eviction,” where landlords could only evict a tenant for certain reasons and must comply with notification and timeline requirements.

Landlords in the city also need to secure a court order before evicting a tenant.

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