May 15, 2019
By Emily F. Keller
Washington State Legislature Passes Landlord-Tenant Reforms Supported by CUAC Research

The Washington State legislature has passed eviction reform legislation as part of a cluster of changes to landlord-tenant law, renters’ rights and affordable housing development. On May 9th, Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5600 into law, bringing a series of amendments to procedures for notifying tenants of rent increases, evictions and building demolition, as well as providing incentives for developing residential buildings with greater density. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer.

This follows testimony by University of Washington researcher Dr. Timothy A. Thomas, lead researcher for the Washington Evictions Research Project and the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative’s Neighborhood Change Project, in front of the Senate Housing Stability & Affordability Committee and other government entities. In February, Thomas joined Rep. Nicole Macri and others at a press conference to present a package of 34 bills introduced in the House of Representatives targeting affordable housing and homelessness, including eviction reform.

Following the passage of SB 5600, landlords will be required to provide 14 days notice before evicting tenants based on overdue rent, as opposed to the current 3 day requirement, through an amendment to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA). Landlords will also be required to provide clear information on tenants’ rights, obligations and options (such as low cost legal support and how to acquire materials in multiple languages) through a standardized notice to vacate; to give tenants 60 days notice, rather than the current 30 days, before increasing their rent (with some exceptions); and to provide 120 days notice to renters before ending their tenancy due to building changes such as demolition or rehabilitation. The new law takes effect this July.

A research report led by Thomas, titled “The State of Evictions: Results from the University of Washington Evictions Project”, highlights demographic trends in home evictions and their impact on homelessness in Washington state. The research showed that 1 in 55 adults in the state were evicted between 2013 and 2017; that 80% to 90% of evictions were due to falling behind on rent; and that black adults were disproportionately impacted. The report, with co-authors Ott Toomet, Ian Kennedy, and Alex Ramiller, was first published in February and will be updated with new research as a living website. The research is partially funded by CUAC.

Thomas leads the Neighborhood Change Project, supported by the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative, which investigates the effects of neighborhood change and segregation on racial and socioeconomic differences in health, housing, migration, and poverty.

Dr. Thomas’s research and testimony have also been cited in the Washington Post, The News Tribune, Komo News, KUOW, and SeattleMet.