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Multiple King County cities ramp up protections for tenants

Rules vary city by city across King County, with Burien among those rolling out a significant slate of changes this year.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Several King County cities rolled out significant changes to landlord-tenant law in 2022, in some cases providing renters more protections as pandemic-prompted eviction moratoriums expired.

Cities across the county offer a patchwork of policies, and some advocates such as the Stay Housed, Stay Healthy Coalition, say they're pushing to pass standardized protections as tenants cope with rising rent. 

The policies are not without pushback, as some property owner associations dispute their efficacy for empowering affordable housing.

Along with measures passed in Kenmore, Issaquah, Redmond and Kirkland, Burien recently adopted a suite of new protections, which Councilmember Hugo Garcia says were critically timed.

"I want to be able to live where I grew up, and I grew up here, and even before it was annexed as Burien," Garcia said. "Coming out of the pandemic, eviction moratoriums were in place and we wanted to make sure there wasn't a steep or hard effect from that moratorium that ended."

While Garcia said he'd like to see the state take action on the rising costs of rent itself, he hopes more cities will enact their own measures in the meantime.

"Keeping folks in housing is part of addressing our homelessness crisis," Garcia said.

Kim McGillivray has rented in the Northwest around 22 years and said protections such as longer advanced notice for rent increases have made a significant difference so tenants can plan and budget properly. 

"There's a lot of momentum- there are growing numbers of renters' groups, elder renters, LGBTQ renters, there's an array of interest groups that will coalesce eventually and will become fist-to-power -- not yet, but soon," McGillivray said. 

McGillivray recommends that all tenants educate themselves on their rights, conduct all communication with landlords through writing, negotiate on terms of a lease where possible, and get involved with groups that assist or organize renters.

"Nobody's going to give it to you- you have to unfortunately fight for it," McGillivray said. "So I see signs of the fight and I find that hopeful."

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