Tenant Tip: Concerned about rising rents? Join housing advocates in Seattle to meet with legislators: 12/19, 6:30pm

Join housing advocates for a meeting with your legislators to let them know how rent increases are impacting you, your family and your community.

WHEN? Thursday, December 19, 2013, 6:30pm

WHY? Not only do rent increases in Seattle lead the nation, but some rent increases are actually used to circumvent other tenant protections such as the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance. Each year, more and more tenants find out they were deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to loopholes created by Washington State law.

We are limited on how we can address these problems in private rental housing because of these words: “The imposition of controls on rent is of statewide significance and is preempted by the state. No city or town of any class may enact, maintain, or enforce ordinances or other provisions which regulate the amount of rent to be charged…” –RCW 35.21.830

THE SOLUTION? Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and Washington State Senator David Frockt (D), 46th District, are meeting with constituents to have a conversation about how we might work towards addressing these issues in the 2014 Legislative Session.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING, please contact Tenants Union Organizer Stina Janssen (stinaj@tenantsunion.org) or call 206.722.6848 × 102.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Tenant Tip: Rent increases on the rise in Washington State

Graph from Seattle Times depicting rent growth in the Seattle-area since 1995, with a 6% increase since last year.

Graph from Seattle Times depicting rent growth in the Seattle-area since 1995, with a 6% increase since last year.

Have you received a notice of a rent increase in the last year? If you are renting in Washington State, especially in a major urban area such as Seattle, it’s likely that you’ve seen an increase in your housing costs over the past year. We’ve heard from many people on the Tenant Services Hotline that rent is increasing significantly, and even doubling in some parts of the state. Imagine paying $700 for a one-bedroom apartment in August, and then being asked to pay $1,400 for that same apartment in September!

A recent Seattle Times article states that rents in Seattle increased nearly 6% in the past year  more than any other major U.S. city included in the study. Now the average rate for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly $1,200 a month.

The soaring cost of housing is also drawing attention to the shortage of affordable housing for families, individuals and students, who are forced to spend the majority of their paychecks on housing costs alone.

With the trend in major rent increases, we thought it would be a good time to review the laws and requirements for rent increases and rule changes.

When can the landlord increase my rent? What kind of notice is required?

The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in Washington State has specific laws that address how much notice landlords must give tenants before increasing the rent or making changes to the policies or rules included in a rental agreement. The section of the landlord-tenant laws that address rule changes or rent increases is RCW 59.18.140.

Tenants who have a term lease for a fixed amount of time  for example, January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 ­­­­ can only be issued a rent increase or change to the rental agreement at the end of the lease period, in our example, after December 31.

Tenants who have a month-to-month agreement have the right to at least 30 days’ written notice before the rent increase goes into effect. To increase the rent effective on February 1, landlords should give tenants written notice on or before January 1. The idea is that tenants could still give at least 20 days’ notice  by January 11 in order to end the rental agreement and move out if they are unable to pay the increased amount.

Within Seattle city limits, there are additional protections through the Rental Agreement Regulation, which requires Seattle landlords to provide 60 days’ written notice if the rent increase is more than 10% over a 12-month period. All of the state laws about notice requirements still apply in Seattle as well. This is just an additional protection.

Is there a limit or maximum amount a landlord can raise the rent?

There is NO rent control in Washington State, therefore there is not a cap or limit to the number of times a landlord can raise the rent in a year (RCW 35.21.830). Similarly, there is no maximum dollar amount or percent increase limit for a rent increase.

What can I do if the landlord does not provide me the correct amount of notice to increase my rent?

If landlords do not provide at least 30 days’ notice before the increase is to take effect, or if they increase your rent in the middle of a rental period, you may want to address the issue in writing so you are not held responsible for paying the increased amount until you’ve received the correct notice required by law. We have a Sample Letter that may be helpful in starting that conversation with landlords.

Keeping a paper trail of documentation is a good idea during this process. If you pay the rent increase to avoid having the landlord illegally evict you for unpaid rent, then you still have options for later recovering that month’s increase where correct notice was not provided. Some tenants have used Small Claims Court to sue for the money paid for a rent increase where the landlord did not provide the correct 30 days’ notice or tried to increase the rent in the middle of a lease period.

If you think the rent increase was given out of retaliation­  for example, you asserted your rights by asking that the landlord make a repair, and the landlord responded by giving you a rent increase ­ then you may want to speak to an attorney to see what your options are. See our Legal Assistance Guide webpage for more information.

Where can I find other resources about rent increases and rule changes?

You can check out our Rental Agreements webpage for more information and FAQs. The City of Seattle also has information about the Rental Agreement Regulation for Seattle residents. And if you would like to read more about the trend in rapidly rising rent costs, here are a few of the recent articles to get you started:

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Tenant Tip: Secondhand smoke in apartments

Smoke-free housing signNinety-two percent of renters in Washington State have indicated that they prefer smoke-free housing. As a response to more landlords choosing to convert their buildings to smoke-free properties, the Washington Department of Health created some helpful resources for landlords and tenants to make this change, called SmokeFreeWashington.com.

Living in an apartment building where the smoking policies are not clear or are not enforced can be frustrating at best. The landlord-tenant laws do not specifically address smoking policies. These policies are generally included in a rental agreement. If a landlord has designated the property as smoke-free, then they would be responsible for enforcing the policies that are in place. However, it can be frustrating when those policies aren’t enforced and there is secondhand smoke in a non-smoking building.

Our Tenant Services website has some tips and suggestions for working with roommates or neighbors in these situations on our Roommates & Neighbors webpage.

In order to make a policy change in an apartment or rental unit, as with any rule change, a landlord must provide at least 30 days’ written notice to tenants who have a month-to-month agreement (where there is no fixed time period connected to the contract). With a lease agreement which has a fixed time period attached to it, such as one year or six months, a landlord cannot make any policy or rule changes during the lease period. However when the lease term is up, for example at the end of the one-year contract, a landlord can institute a policy change such as converting a building to non-smoking.

If you would like to talk to your landlord about smoking policies, or if you are a landlord considering a change, check out these videos, sample letters and resources related to making your building smoke-free: www.smokefreewashington.com. The e-learning course for landlords, owners and residents provides information about the business and health benefits of going smoke-free, and how to do so. The course includes easy-to-use sample downloadable documents to support the implementation process.

If you are a person with a disability and experiencing health problems as a result of secondhand smoke, you may consider contacting a local civil rights office to ask about Fair Housing laws and requesting a reasonable accommodation. For information on how to contact your local civil rights office, see our Renters’ Resources page.

For more information, check out the resources available on our Tenant Services website on Rental Agreements, Rule Changes and Neighbors & Roommates. You can also call our Tenant Services Line to speak with a tenant counselor about brainstorming ways to resolve your situation. The phone number is 206.694.6767 and the line is open for messages on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30am-4:30pm.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Santos Place improvements

When Community Action was launched through LBJ’s War on Poverty in 1964, weatherization programs were a key component of our work. For many years Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground) offered Minor Home Repair and weatherization services. Now, we are delighted to be completing the first phase of preservation and energy updates to Santos Place, a former Navy barracks that provides transitional housing for 42 formerly homeless men and women at Magnuson Park.

The scope of work includes installation of a new roof, insulation in walls, and new windows and siding. These improvements, along with a new boiler system, will generate about $25,000 in annual energy savings for the building and create a facility that is warmer in the winter and a cooler during warm weather.

South side of Santos Place with protective plastic wrap

South side of Santos Place with protective plastic wrap

South side of Santos Place, before new siding is installed.

South side of Santos Place, before new siding is installed

The first phase of preservation is funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce, City of Seattle HomeWise Program and Solid Ground. Ally Community Development is our developer, Environmental Works is our architect, and Walsh Construction Co. is our contractor.

Tenant Tip: Tenant Rights Workshop in Bellevue, 10/21/13

Solid Ground Tenant Services is offering another opportunity for renters, housing advocates and service providers in King County to attend a free training about tenants’ rights and responsibilities as laid out in the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

House for RentRENT SMART:
For current & future renters & tenant advocates

WHEN:
Monday, October 21
4:30-6:30 pm

WHERE:
Highland Community Center
14224 Bel-Red Road
Bellevue, WA 98007

We’ll cover topics such as:

  • Understanding your rights and responsibilities
  • Finding affordable housing
  • Navigating landlord screening criteria
  • Protecting yourself from eviction & housing loss
  • Learning how to get your deposit back
  • Requesting repairs

Whether you are a long-time renter who would like a refresher on landlord-tenant laws or a new renter who wants to know about your rights and responsibilities, we hope you will join us for the workshop! Email questions regarding the workshop or RSVP to tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Tenant Tip: Tenant Rights Workshop in Beacon Hill, 9/24/13

WomanMovingIntoHomeSolid Ground Tenant Services is offering another opportunity for renters, housing advocates and service providers in King County to attend a free training about tenants’ rights and responsibilities as laid out in the Landlord-Tenant Laws.

Rent Smart: For current & future renters & tenant advocates

Tuesday, September 24, 5-7pm
Beacon Hill Library, Conference Room
2821 Beacon Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

We’ll be covering topics such as:

  • Understanding your rights and responsibilities
  • Finding affordable housing
  • Navigating landlord screening criteria
  • Protecting yourself from eviction & housing loss
  • Learning how to get your deposit back
  • Requesting repairs

Whether you are a long-time renter who would like a refresher on landlord-tenant laws or a new renter who wants to know about your rights and responsibilities, we hope you will join us for the workshop! Email questions regarding the workshop or RSVP to tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Tenant Tip: Public meetings on the use of criminal records in employment

In our 6/24/13 blog post, “Seattle Jobs Assistance Ordinance bans the box,” we wrote about the Jobs Assistance Ordinance that Seattle City Council passed to regulate how conviction and arrest records are used during the hiring process.

The ordinance removes the arrest/conviction history checkbox on employment applications and requires that employers conduct an initial screening before asking about a person’s criminal record. It also requires that an employer has a legitimate business reason for denying a person based on their conviction record. (There are exemptions to the ordinance; this FAQ provides more information.)

SeaOCRlogoSince the new requirements will take effect on November 1, 2013, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will hold several public meetings to provide information, answer questions, and gather input from the community.

To request an accommodation, please contact Brenda Anibarro at 206.684.4514 or Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.gov.

Help spread the word to your community by sharing this flyer or blog post. Hope to see you there!

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

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