In response to the COVID pandemic, Washington, like many other states, has imposed a moratorium on residential evictions and rent collections. The moratorium prohibits landlords and property managers from (i) serving, enforcing or threatening to serve or enforce eviction notices unless the landlord certifies a significant and immediate risk to health, safety or property of others, or is moving into or selling the property, (ii) assessing or threatening to assess late fees, (iii) treating unpaid rent as collectible or threatening to collect a debt for unpaid rent where the nonpayment was the result of COVID-19 and (iv) increasing rent or threatening to increase rent unless the rent increase is contained in an existing lease. As of now, the moratorium expires on October 15, 2020.
On August 20, Bob Ferguson, the Washington Attorney General, filed suit against Whitewater Creek, Inc., an owner and developer of affordable housing projects in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, for violating the eviction moratorium. The attorney general’s complaint alleges –among other things – that the owner of Whitewater Creek directed its property manager to tell residents they would be evicted when the moratorium expired. The complaint seeks an injunction against further violation of the eviction moratorium, civil penalties and other unspecified relief under the eviction moratorium and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
This is the second lawsuit that the attorney general has filed to enforce the eviction moratorium. The first suit, filed against JRK Residential, resulted in payments of nearly $350,000 to tenants and the state.
We wish to stress to our clients and friends in the multifamily housing industry that the eviction moratorium prevents threats of eviction, late fees, collection and rent increases, and that the attorney general has an open tenant helpline and is enforcing the eviction moratorium. Owners of affordable housing do not get a pass.