Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Washington State Passes Laws Affecting Multifamily Property Owners

The Washington State legislature was busy this year. It appears that nearly a dozen bills related to landlord/tenant law were introduced but most were not enacted.

Here's a list of what passed and what didn't pass this term (summaries taken from information from the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association)

The following bills PASSED the Washington State Legislature in 2009 and are deemed effective July 29, 2009.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors (passed) (a similar bill passed the Oregon Legislature in 2009)
SSB 5561 (DIGEST AS ENACTED) Requires the building code council to adopt rules requiring that all buildings classified as residential occupancies in the state building code be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms. [Note: applies to new construction effective January 1 2011 and existing structures January 1, 2013.] Excludes from this requirement owner-occupied single family residences legally occupied before the effective date of the act.

Tenants Allowed to Change Locks When Sexually Harassed by Landlord (passed)
HB 1856-S (DIGEST AS ENACTED)
Authorizes a tenant, if a tenant or a household member is a victim of sexual assault, stalking, or unlawful harassment by a landlord, to: (1) Terminate the rental agreement and quit the premises without further obligation under the rental agreement or under chapter 59.12 RCW (forcible entry and forcible and unlawful detainer) prior to making a copy of a valid order for protection or a written record of a report signed by a qualified third party available to the landlord, if certain conditions are met; and (2) Change or add locks to the tenant's dwelling unit at the tenant's expense. Prohibits a tenant from changing any locks to common areas and requires the tenant to make keys for new locks available to other household members. Requires a tenant, upon vacating the dwelling unit, to deliver the key and all copies of the key to the landlord by mail or personal delivery by a third party.

Mandatory Third Party Inspections (failed). These bills would keep local governments from requiring landlords to have their property inspected by a third party before receiving a business license. These bills were opposed by the City of Seattle and other jurisdictions. (HB 1296 / SB 5495)

Limitations on Landlord Obligations for Utility Debt. (failed) These bills would limit the ability of local utilities to collect unpaid utility bills that a tenant was responsible for but failed to pay. (HB 1298 / SB 5667)

60-day Termination Notices (failed). These bills would have changed termination notices landlords were required to give month-to-month tenants. They require a landlord to give 30 days notice before the end of a month but 60 days if the tenancy has been in effect more than 1 year (although Oregon passed a similar bill this session). (HB 1773 / SB 5549)

Mandatory Acceptance of Section 8 (failed). These bills would have made source of income and Section 8 protected classes and lardlords would be required to accept Section 8 tenants if they met other screening requirements. (HB 1766 / SB 5742)

Change to Mandatory Crime Free Programs (failed). These bill would have imposed limitations on any local government adopting a crime free program for rental housing. One of the provisions would require any such program to be voluntary, not mandatory. (HB 1299 / SB 5742)

Limitations on Screening Information Available to Landlord (failed). This bill would have limited information that screening companies could give to landlords about previously filed eviction actions involving an applicant. It would have also allowed an applicant to take a screening from one property to others for 60 days. (SB 5922)

State Claim for Interest on Security Deposits (failed). This bill would have taken interest earned on security deposits and required it be sent to the state for affordable housing programs. (SB 5923)