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By now, I hope, most of you are aware from my several zoom meetings, contacting me, media or own research, what the 4 allowed reasons to terminate a tenancy are under the current emergency governor's proclamation 20.19.3. If not I will refresh here in a moment but you should all be aware that the Supreme Court of Washington just threw in another huge wrinkle. I should also touch base again on the new CDC order in case you could not make the zoom meetings.
As to the first two reasons, you are allowed to terminate a month to month or a lease on its natural expiration date if the landlord is either selling the property or moving in themselves if you give at least 60 days’ notice in the way required by the Residential Landlord Tenant Act. The emergency proclamation specifically says it must be read in term of that act so nothing has vacated the requirement that the termination notice be effective only on the last day of the rental period or in other words the last day of the contract. Similarly, the method of notice must be the same as always including adding an additional day if posted and mailed. What has been added to the normal notice requirement along with the increase to 60 days is that it must be accompanied by an affidavit sworn under the penalty of perjury as to the specifics of the purpose for the termination. We have these forms.
Second two reasons are either serious (read that structural type) damages caused by the tenant or that tenant causing a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of another. The nuances of all this are too complicated for a written article but I can almost guarantee that our landlord, and I am one, reach an opinion that damage is serious significantly earlier than the law. Additionally the terms serious and immediate are issues of fact not issues of law and what that means in my opinion is that if you use this approach you are almost certainly guaranteed to have to go to trial and will not be successful at a show cause hearing. That means additional
complications and risk that are not simply explained in an article. Both these methods also require the new affidavit and also are subject to the same notice delivery requirements but if you use a 20 day termination thinking it does not rise to the level of a 3 day quit notice then the Attorney General will attempt to shut you down or come after you arguing that you have undermined your own argument about the seriousness or immediateness requirement by giving that time.
Now that version of the order is set to expire 15 October 2020 but I am absolutely certain it will be extended as the governor has a hand-picked task force loaded with what appear to be large donors to his campaign and a single big corporate landlord and tenant advocates working on making recommendations for going forward. I would not expect landlord friendly results out of this task force if I were you.
Next the CDC order does not, at present, apply to our situation in that it only prevents evictions based on non-payment of rent due to a covid19 hardship. Our state currently has a stricter rule in place, so the CDC order does not prevent anything already prevented and it does not prevent evictions for other reasons such as bad actors or the natural end of a lease or contract. The relevance of the CDC order may change when the current governor’s proclamation is modified next so do not assume this evaluation to remain unchanged all the way to the end of the year when the CDC order is set to expire.
Finally, the Washington Supreme Court has just added a new wrinkle as of 9 September 2020. We can argue whether or not they have over stepped and taken on the legislative role themselves but absent some action on that front this order will be followed by the various superior courts of every county in the state. I will skip all the whereas language that sets the table and simply post the actual order language here:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
This Court recognizes the authority of superior courts in
Washington to implement an eviction resolution program for
litigants to participate in prior to the filing of an unlawful detainer
action in court, and to take all necessary steps to support such a
program, including but not limited to, entering local orders and
contracting with service providers.
DATED at Olympia, Washington this 9th day of September 2020.
So if I read this correctly what it means is that each Superior Court of every different county can impose a different process/program of its own creation that may be required before allowing the filing of an unlawful detainer. So, what this means to those people who have given a notice to terminate already is unknown and may likely be different from county to county. What that means for due process or the abuse of the same may be different from county to county. What the application of this may mean to the governor’s modification to the proclamation going forward, if any, remains unknown.
As I have said before the Washington Landlord Association is participating in a lawsuit to attempt to protect the rights of landlords. We have donated and continue to fundraise through legal defense fund and are also helping to find plaintiff ’s injured unjustly by an over broad and over reaching proclamation. If any of you are interested in being a plaintiff and having your story added to the suit you can provide that information here.
I want to emphasize that it is quite appropriate and helpful, to have your tenants who are being injured by other bad acting tenants join and participate. It is a stone cold fact that our good tenants are being damaged by this over broad and over reaching proclamation just as landlords are. It’s not just stories about income, retirement investments and savings being taken from landlords by this approach but tenants being victimized.
Stay tuned all! ◊
-Rob Trickler, WLA President & Attorney
425-303-8000 | firstname.lastname@example.org