SEATTLE — Editor's note: The video above originally aired in December 2019.
The Seattle City Council has passed legislation meant to halt residential evictions during the coldest, wettest months of the year, despite Mayor Jenny Durkan warning against the move.
The council voted unanimously on Monday to pass the legislation. Several different amendments to the previous legislation were addressed and passed.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s legislation initially prohibited evictions from being carried out between Nov. 1 and March 31, with some exceptions.
However, an amendment by Councilmember Dan Strauss passed that narrows the no-eviction period from December to February.
Other amendments included exempting landlords who own four units or fewer and one that allows evictions caused by behavior that impacts the health and safety of others.
Sawant voted "no" to all the amendments except one that sets up mitigation a fund for landlords.
Durkan sent a letter to the council on Monday, saying the amendments do not "sufficiently address the issues department directors have previously identified with the legislation." Durkan was referring to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections.
After the vote, a spokesperson for the mayor's office issued the following statement:
"Both City Council and the Mayor share the same goal: helping people facing evictions, and keeping them in their homes, especially during the winter months. But the Mayor has been advised a legal fight is almost certain and could be costly to taxpayers, similar to the recent Showbox litigation. During that period no tenant will be protected from eventual eviction and taxpayers will foot the bill.
While Mayor Durkan will be evaluating the amended ordinance, Mayor Durkan is disappointed that Council did not want to engage in a robust discussion on programs that will legally and actually prevent evictions. Let’s be clear: under Council’s action, tenants will still be evicted. At best, this law will simply delay evictions until March 1st, create more debt, and an eviction on their record."
The legislation comes after the Seattle Renters’ Commission sent a letter in November to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and heads of the city human services and neighborhood departments urging the city to take up the idea.
The commission argued blocking winter evictions will save lives because it helps keep people inside during the harshest weather of the year.
Supporters said the ban is needed to combat homelessness and to keep people who are down on their luck from being forced outside during bad weather.
Critics said Seattle should instead reduce the city’s evictions by connecting needy tenants with rent assistance.
In October 2019, Seattle updated its tenant protection laws to strengthen renter rights. Now landlords must give tenants 14 days’ notice to pay or vacate, which is up from three days, tenants must receive 60 days’ notice for all rent increases and eligibility to receive relocation assistance upfront was expanded.