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Kirkland adopts increased tenant protections against sudden rent hikes

Washington State Law prohibits rent caps which means landlords can raise rent as much as they want. Some cities are finding other ways to add rental laws.

SEATTLE — A new ordinance in Kirkland requires landlords to give tenants more notice of rent increases. 

Rent caps are illegal in Washington state, but some local jurisdictions are going about other ways to add tenant protections. 

Rent increases can be particularly hard on families trying to make ends meet. Kirkland resident Jennifer Fowler was recently notified her rent was increasing by $500 a month. 

"They gave me 10 days' notice to sign the new lease at the new amount," said Fowler. 

But $500 with little notice was too much for the single mom. 

"(I felt) terror, fear, the timing of it because I had just left my job was terrifying," she said. 

It turns out it was also illegal, according to a newly implemented Kirkland City Ordinance.

"If it's more than a 3% increase, they have to give an additional notice so it's a 120-day deadline instead of 60 days and if it's over 10%, you have to give a 180-day deadline," said Patricia Bowen with the Eastside Legal Assistance Program, a nonprofit that gives free legal help to people in King County.

Bowen said she gets calls daily from renters at a loss of what to do and has already represented clients like Fowler whose landlords aren't following the new ordinance.

"We sent the response letter and informed them there was an inconsistency in their statement and that it wasn't conforming with the law," said Bowen.

Fowler's rental agency responded and now she has six months before the hike hits. 

"I feel empowered because at least this gives me time to make a decision," said Fowler.

Rob Trickler, the president of the Washington Landlords Association said in a statement, in part: 

"It is these types of ordinances and the push for rent control that are driving housing providers to bring rents to market value even though many prefer to keep the rents below market value to keep tenants in place to prevent turnover. Rent control like this makes it impossible to respond effectively to increases in taxes, unexpected damage and inflation, leaving the housing providers vulnerable and their properties at risk pushing the need to bring rents to market value."

Now Fowler wants other renters to know their rights. 

"So no one feels that fear, feeling helpless," said Fowler.

Trickler said the likelihood of landlords making mistakes is increasing with the high number of cities adopting these ordinances and asks for cities to better educate landlords on the laws. 

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