Tenant Tip: Know your foreclosure rights in 2015!

Foreclosure sign

Landlord/tenant laws related to foreclosures in Washington state changed as of January 1st of this year because the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA) officially expired at the end of 2014. State law continues to provide protections to tenants in residences facing foreclosure. Some of these protections differ significantly from the Federal protections that expired. We’ve outlined some of the basics of the law below. (Note: If you rent a property that is facing foreclosure, Solid Ground’s Tenant Services recommends that you speak with an attorney to understand the full breadth of protections available to you. See our online Legal Assistance Guide for some free legal resources.)

Tenants residing in properties of four units or less at the time of sale in foreclosure must be given written notice to vacate within 60 days, regardless of whether the rental agreement is a fixed-term or month-to-month lease. If the new owner of the property wishes to rent with the existing tenants, they can ask the tenants to sign a new rental agreement. The law does not specifically state whether rent must be paid during the 60-day period, so it is advisable to set the funds aside in case they are demanded later. It is the former owner’s responsibility to return any remaining deposit as well.

If tenants choose to overstay the allotted 60-day period, they could risk an eviction being filed. The only other reasons tenants can face eviction are for waste or nuisance, especially involving illegal activities or paraphernalia.

If landlords neglect to pay for the utilities, tenants have the option to request that the utility company put the utilities in their name. Tenants should be very cautious if taking this step, and ensure that their new account will not be associated with any prior unpaid fees. This Sample Letter to Public Utility can help tenants contact their provider company and legally restore their electric and/or water services. When exiting the property, the tenant should arrange with the utility company to shut off services and close the account.

Foreclosure is a challenging and confusing process, but it is important for tenants to know what their rights are and how to assert them. Visit our Tenant Services Foreclosure webpage for more information about tenants’ rights related to foreclosures, as well as access to other helpful resources.

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 and Wednesdays between 10:30am and 2:30pm.

Tenant Tip: Evictions in Clean & Sober Housing (Part 2)

recovery-photoIn Evictions in Clean & Sober Housing (Part 1), we explained some of the requirements and the specific evictions process for tenants living in clean and sober housing in Washington State. Current legislation does not provide strong protections for these tenants, so in Part 2, we’ll address some of the barriers they face.

In the 2013 legislative session, there was an effort by certain housing providers to introduce legislation to make it faster for landlords of clean and sober housing to evict tenants. Because the evictions process for this type of housing is already speedy under current law, the new legislation would have put these tenants at great risk of losing their housing. But through a collaborative open dialogue to discuss the implications of changing the current law regarding evictions in clean and sober housing, the proposed legislation was not introduced and will not move forward this legislative session.

Stable housing is critical in helping individuals in recovery get back on their feet and be able to support themselves. However, housing promoted as “clean and sober” or “recovery housing” varies widely in the types and levels of services and support offered to the residents, because current Washington State law does not require regulatory monitoring of these types of housing. Also, it is common for various individuals living in clean and sober housing to be at different stages of drug or alcohol recovery. In situations where individuals break the housing rules by using drugs on the premises, it can be challenging for landlords to protect the other residents so that recovering addicts are not put in vulnerable situations with drugs present in their living environment.

Many housing providers who offer clean and sober housing do comply with the laws and meet the guidelines of chemical dependency professionals working with individuals in recovery programs. However, there are also landlords who do not comply – specifically with the required evictions process. In some cases, tenants are not given the proper eviction notices required by law and then face the risk of housing loss in a very short amount of time without due process. Under the current statute, tenants in these situations can be given a 3-day notice with only one day to comply or be evicted.

The current evictions process in all types of rental housing is speedy, but even more so in clean and sober housing where the time window for tenants to be in compliance is only one day. While this allows for housing providers to maintain the health and safety of tenants in recovery housing by immediately addressing problems with tenants who are not complying with the rules, it can be problematic for tenants who relapse and require more support.

Because many individuals who live in clean and sober housing can be required to serve jail sentences if they violate their court-ordered requirements, stable housing is critical to address drug addiction issues through services and alternative community programs, not jail time. Relapsing tenants should be given chemical dependency counseling and access to legal services so they can be well-informed and able to address a notice of eviction, but access to free services is very limited and often contingent on funding of community programs.

For these reasons, it is crucial that the clean and sober housing evictions process not be sped up, as this would only create further barriers for individuals who are working towards making life changes from drug addiction.

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 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

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