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'They don’t help the landlords': Everett woman says state offering little relief for landlords during pandemic

Tenants who pay their rent on time can still cause issues, like damage to properties or noise complaints, and it's becoming a headache for one Washington landlord.

EVERETT, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee's moratorium on evictions is getting criticism from some landlords who say their properties are being damaged, their neighbors are getting upset, and there's nothing they can do about it.

The Everett home was left to Danielle Leonard by her late mother. Danielle rented it out last year thinking she'd one day move into it with her children. 

Now, she can't sleep under her own roof.

"On the landlord side, what a headache," she said. "On the personal side, how sad because this was my mom's property."

Danielle says after finding damage to her house, trash piled up outside, and receiving complaints from neighbors about noise and police activity she told her tenants she would not renew their lease.

That was back in January, long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. But now, the lease was up last week and the tenants still haven't left.

Because of the state's eviction moratorium under coronavirus, Danielle can't kick them out. The pregnant, single mother of two hired an attorney and contacted the Attorney General's office.

She wasn't pleased with what she found out.

"They don't help the landlords," Danielle said. "They don't have any answers or specific instructions for us. They just say for the tenant that unless it's an immediate health and safety risk they don't have to move."

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office referred questions about the moratorium to the governor, but said, "…landlords who believe a crime has been committed should contact the police." 

And as far as property damage, "…as long as damage is properly documented the tenant can be charged for it."

RELATED: Gov. Inslee extends state eviction moratorium through June 4

RELATED: Mom-and-pop landlords also struggling with rent amid Washington's coronavirus crisis

Agreeing that no one should be thrown out right now solely for inability to pay rent, Attorney Brian Read says the moratorium should be amended to allow evictions in cases of serious lease violations.

"Not if the lawn hasn't been cut, but landlords should have recourse if a tenant is creating waste on the property, if they're spray painting graffiti, if they have unauthorized occupants," Read said. "In many ways landlords are economic hostages right now."

In Danielle's case, she says the tenants deny doing any serious damage to the home and say they're trying to find a new place but it's tough with the current lockdown.

For now, Danielle and her kids are forced to live with her father in his mobile home, looking forward to the day they can stay in their own house.

RELATED: Washington landlords and lawmakers discuss rent and evictions during coronavirus crisis

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