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Small landlords worry Seattle rental protections are pushing them out of the market

Seattle City Council will vote Monday on four measures designed to protect renters.

SEATTLE — A group of Seattle landlords is speaking out against extending the eviction moratorium and other policies designed at protecting renters. 

The group, composed of small landlords, is concerned they’re being grouped in with policy aimed at corporate landlords.  

"Every bill they craft is based on the assumption that landlords are greedy and rich and we have deep pockets and can pay for everything. Well, that isn't all of us," said Charlotte Thistle, who owns one rental property. 

The state's eviction moratorium is set to expire June 30. The policy has protected renters who faced financial hardship due to the pandemic. Housing advocates urged Gov. Jay Inslee to extend the eviction moratorium, but this group of landlords says it's time to it expire or change the policy to stop people from abusing the system. 

"Our hands are tied on a property that we own," said landlord Ben Ohmart. 

Ohmart rents a single-family home in Seattle but said for the past five months his tenants haven't paid rent. He said owning only a few properties is similar to operating a small business where margins can be tight. 

"Our tenants stopped paying rent willfully. We said your lease is up and we tried to coordinate on a moveout schedule and that was the first time they stopped paying rent," Ohmart said. "That rental payment mostly goes to paying our bills, paying our mortgage, paying our property manager, and for lawn care." 

Seattle City Council will vote on four items Monday aimed at protecting renters. One measure is a resolution urging Inslee to extend the moratorium until the end of 2021. 

Thistle argues these policies don't protect small landlords who only own a few properties.

"When you have something like the eviction moratorium and you have one tenant who's not paying rent; Well, if you have one property that's one hundred percent of your income," Thistle said, "You still have to pay property tax, mortgage, utilities. Nobody is giving us a free pass on those expenses." 

Small landlords say the policies will push them out of the market and make it hard to find single-family homes for rent. 

"What we're asking from city council is to take an honest look at the policies that they're enacting and proposing and make sure they're viable for the whole community," Ohmart said.