SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council has unanimously passed five pieces of legislation intended to strengthen and improve tenant protection laws, including new protections that cover domestic violence survivors.
Under the new protections, domestic violence survivors will not be held liable for damages to a unit or apartment that were caused by their abuser.
The provision further expands to protect those who have experienced sexual assault, stalking or unlawful harassment.
"Survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for the circumstances of their abuse, resulting in a negative rental history and outstanding debt, and to mirror the issue of liability for survivors of domestic violence established in state tenant law that entitles a survivor to end their lease terms early without penalty," said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1).
Other laws passed were the "roommate bill", a rental registration and inspection ordinance, a law on landlord-tenant transparency and eviction protections.
City Council also passed the following legislation aimed at strengthening renter protections by:
- Allowing tenants to share the costs of rent and enjoy the other benefits of living with roommates and family members by prohibiting landlords from restricting legal occupancy limits established by local, state, or federal law.
- Requiring information on the rights and resources of tenants to be included on notices to terminate a tenancy, increase rent, or for the landlord to enter a unit.
- Authorizing the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection, or SDCI, to enforce compliance to the state law to require receipts for rental payments, and prohibits the requirement for electronic payment options only.
- Requiring a landlord to register the rental unit with SDCI before filing and issuing an unlawful detainer to terminate tenancy.
According to the city, over 46 percent of Seattle residents live in rental housing. From 2012 to 2017, the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom has increased by 37 percent, reaching $1,750.
Renters who face eviction are disproportionately women, people of color, and are more likely to be at risk of displacement, the city said. In most cases where evictions are filed, they are filed with the tenant owing one month or less in rent.
“These bills are an important follow-up to successful advocacy at the state level this year to improve our tenant laws, such as extending the pay-or-vacate notice from three to 14 days, and requiring a 60-days notice for all rent increases,” said Herbold. “I want to thank Councilmember O’Brien and Mayor Durkan who have also contributed a great deal towards shaping these bills, which will ultimately strengthen tenant protections and help thousands of Seattle families.”
The bills will go into effect in July 2020.