SEATTLE — With April 1 just days away, the question on the minds of many in Washington state is "do I have to pay rent and what do I do if I can't?"
If you can afford to pay your rent, both Seattle city leaders and state officials say you should.
If you can't, they advise talking with your landlord to arrange any payment plans. Keep in mind, landlords are under no legal mandate to assist you with rent.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan enacted a 60-day moratorium on residential evictions on March 3 as the coronavirus outbreak grew. On March 18, Gov. Jay Inslee followed suit, enacting a 30-day moratorium for the rest of the state.
But there are some differences.
In Seattle city limits, renters are protected from evictions for both non-payment and other non-compliances during this crisis. And landlords also can't charge you late fees that would have accrued from not paying.
"An owner of a housing unit residential landlord shall not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including any action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of this Emergency Order, unless the unlawful detainer action or action on a termination notice is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members."
The governor's declaration only covers non-payment. That means your landlord can't immediately evict you if you don't pay your rent this month.
However, the order says nothing about pausing late fees and unless modified, landlords could demand back pay once it expires on April 17.
"Local law enforcement is prohibited from serving or otherwise acting on eviction orders that are issued solely for default payment of rent related to such property. Nothing in this Proclamation is intended to prohibit local law enforcement from acting on orders of eviction issued for other reasons, including but not limited to waste, nuisance or commission of a crime on the premises. "
Both Mayor Durkan and Gov. Inslee's declarations do note that evictions could still happen if the tenant was putting themselves, other tenants, landlords, or the property in danger or committing a crime.
On Sunday, celebrities and musicians banded together to begin nightly performances for #CancelRentFestival. The group behind it wants all rent and mortgage payments canceled during the outbreak.