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.

March 2013 Groundviews: “A place where you can begin”

Groundviews is Solid Ground’s quarterly newsletter for our friends and supporters. Below is our March 2013 lead story; visit our website to read the entire issue online.

Johnnie Williams: Scholar, track star, coach, mentor (John Bolivar Photography)

Johnnie Williams: Scholar, track star, coach, mentor (John Bolivar Photography)

A collegiate academic and athletic star, Johnnie Williams is a nationally-recognized track coach and mentor to thousands of at risk young people. But years ago, while he himself was at Eckstein Middle School, his mom was getting untangled from drugs and a violent relationship. Williams was close to failing out and getting sucked into the vortex of generational poverty. But when he moved with his mom and siblings to Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing for women and their children – escaping her husband and the drugs – the family began to rebuild their lives.

A safe space for a new start
Williams says one of the most important aspects about Broadview was that “it was a women-only shelter, and there was no way my young brother’s dad could have any more impact on my family. For me, that was the turning point: the safety and security.

“It was a complete 180 for us. Our grades turned around. There weren’t as many distractions in the home. My mother wasn’t on drugs anymore. We had people down at the [Broadview] front office we could talk to. And all the staff knew; they seemed to care. I felt like I wasn’t the only kid who grew up in this type of situation. I had people that I could relate to, so I didn’t feel singled out.”

Declining a prep-school academic scholarship, Williams went to Nathan Hale High School. “It was where a lot of my friends were. And a couple of Hale students were living at Broadview at the time, so I wanted to keep the connection with them.” As a young boy, Williams had taken up recreational running. By high school, he was a local track star destined for a big-time collegiate career, maybe more.

Overcoming obstacles
Williams started college at Washington State University (WSU), far enough from his family to focus on his studies, but close enough to help if needed. Academics at WSU and then Eastern Washington University did not prove enough of a challenge, so he ultimately transferred to Columbia University, where he earned a degree in Forensic Anthropology in 2003.

After graduating, he ran professionally for two years, but then another enormous life challenge knocked him off track when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Yet he even took this in stride: “I think that all of the struggles we went through made me a stronger person in general. Dealing with what I had to deal with, I feel like, if I can overcome something like that, there is nothing in my life that I can’t overcome. Whatever I do, I don’t want to fail.” So Williams regained his health and turned his energy and skills to coaching.

Johnnie Williams trains with one of his students (John Bolivar Photography)

Johnnie Williams trains with one of his students (John Bolivar Photography)

From mentee to mentor
While coaching at Garfield High School, the City of Seattle recruited him to work with their youth programs. He says, “I would only take it if I was working with youth who grew up in the same situation that I did. They placed me at Yesler Terrace Community Center. Ever since then, I’ve been working at all the low-income sites in Seattle Parks and Recreation.”

Thirteen years later, young athletes come from across the country to work with Williams’ High Voltage Amateur Athletic Union Track Club. “As a coach and as a person, I’ve become very protective of my kids. I am understanding of a lot of situations; I know what goes on in certain households.

“I’ve become a mentor to a lot of my kids and I have the same perspective as the Broadview Shelter staff: If there are issues – and there are – well you can come and talk about it and we can provide a safe environment for you. If you are looking for a turning point in your life, this is a place where you can begin.

“We work with a lot of kids that are homeless. We work with a lot of kids that are HIV positive, [or] that grew up in the same situation that I did, with their parents on drugs, with domestic violence,” he says. “If you save one kid, you have done your job. And I can name 14 kids right now that, under my coaching, are on Division One college scholarships. Two of them are running professional track and field; some of them are in Division One universities now. I have national champions in the high jump and long jump.”

What makes the greatest difference in their lives? Williams speaks from firsthand experience when he replies, “Just having somebody to talk to, someone that they know, that cares that they can make the best out of that situation. I think the kids appreciate that more than anything.”

For more information about Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing, visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Housing/Broadview.

Fair Tenant Screening Act Passes in the Senate and Moves to House Judiciary

Solid Ground celebrates a great victory for renters in Washington: On Monday, March 11, 2013, the Washington State Senate moved one step closer to making landlord-tenant laws more fair and just for tenants. The Senate voted on the Fair Tenant Screening Act, and with true bipartisan support they passed SB 5568 with a vote of 46-3. This is a huge step toward making sure that domestic violence survivors are not discriminated against or denied housing based on a protection order or their history of domestic violence.

SenJeanne_Kohl-WellesTo hear senators Hobbs, Kohl-Welles and Frockt’s moving testimony on the Senate floor, visit the TVW website for March 11, 2013 Senate coverage, and scroll to 21:30 minutes to watch the 6 ½-minute video coverage.

But that doesn’t mean our work is done! Please send an email to thank Senator Hobbs (steve.hobbs@leg.wa.gov), Senator Kohl-Welles (Jeanne.Kohl-Welles@leg.wa.gov) and Senator Frockt (David.Frockt@leg.wa.gov) for their ongoing support and leadership for the Fair Tenant Screening Act.

Thanks to everyone who offered their support of this critical bill by writing emails and letters and making calls. Also, special thanks and congratulations to the advocates who stood strong on this issue and made this victory possible: Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Tenants Union, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Columbia Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project.

Tenant Tip: Tenant Rights Workshop in South King County, 11/29/12

House for Rent Want to know more about your rights as a renter? Wondering how to get your deposit back or request a repair? Would you like to know how the new changes in the laws impact renters?

Solid Ground Tenant Counselors are hosting a FREE Rent Smart Workshop for the community on Thursday November 29, 5:30-7:30pm, at the Kent City Hall, 1st Fl Chambers (220 4th Ave S, Kent, WA 98032). We’ll provide information about the landlord-tenant laws in Washington State and discuss the laws and ordinances that apply throughout the housing search process, move-in, during tenancy, move-out and eviction. Bring your questions!

Since there is no agency that enforces the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in our state, it is largely up to tenants to understand the laws and know their rights in order to take appropriate action to effectively enforce them. We’ll talk about some tips and best practices for renters to help you assert your rights and have a successful tenancy – whether you are signing a rental agreement, requesting repairs or have questions about your privacy rights.

Especially with recent changes and additions to the laws, challenging situations can arise for tenants. For example, the laws around landlord entry and privacy rights changed in 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights could be compromised. There are remedies available to tenants if a landlord is not complying with the laws, but tenants have to know those remedies are available in order to use them. Knowing the laws and what steps to take, tenants can take action to correct the problem.

If you are a tenant or service provider and would like to attend the workshop, please RSVP to our Tenant Services Workshop & Advocacy Line at 206.694.6748 or email tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

We are also available to provide workshops to organizations and groups throughout King County free of charge. Please contact us if you are interested in scheduling a workshop specifically for your agency or community group. For more information, visit our website at www.solid-ground.org/Tenant.

We look forward to seeing you on November 29!

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.

Tenant Tip: Rental applications & tenant screening fees

In June 2012, a new law took effect providing additional regulations around the tenant screening process. Our post from 5/30/12, Fair Tenant Screening Act passed!, describes in detail the new requirements that landlords provide written notice of what information will be accessed in a screening, what information may be used to deny housing, and notification of why a tenant was denied. However, there’s still more advocacy work to be done to improve tenant screening practices.

Rental Application imageHousing barriers
can mean repeated
screening fees
Landlords frequently deny people housing based on marks on their rental history – such as prior evictions, poor credit, criminal background, etc. – forcing tenants to apply elsewhere. Tenants with a history of housing barriers must often apply to multiple places in hopes of finding an affordable unit they will be accepted into. This screening process can become very costly, because every time a tenant applies for a new rental, they must pay a screening fee ($35 to $75+) so that each different landlord can run a background check.

Be wary of portable screening reports
Some screening companies offer the option to purchase a portable report, which allows tenants to pay one fee and take the report to several landlords or have online access to it. In theory, this method prevents tenants from having to pay fees to each landlord that conducts a check on them.

Unfortunately, landlords are NOT required by law to accept reports provided by tenants. Many landlords choose to have their own screenings conducted and require that tenants pay a separate screening fee, even in cases where the same exact screening company is used by both landlord and tenant.

Because of this, paying for a portable report from a screening company can be risky and costly – and can actually cause tenants to spend more on screening fees. While tenant advocates are working to address the issue, to date there are no laws mitigating rental application screening costs.

Your tenant screening rights
Prior to paying for screening, it is important for tenants to remember that landlords must present a list of criteria they will use to determine tenancy eligibility. Some landlords are able to discuss their criteria with tenants in detail, and this can guide a tenant’s decision whether or not to continue with an application process and pay the screening fee. Having a conversation with a prospective landlord prior screening, proactively asking questions, and reviewing criteria for denying housing can sometimes prevent costly screening fees. 

Lastly, everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies; you can get yours at AnnualCreditReport.com. Bring your credit report to prospective landlords and ask if they will accept it. While some landlords may choose to conduct additional screening anyway, presenting your credit report may be another way to avoid screening fees. If a landlord refuses to accept the credit report, then you can choose whether or not to continue with the process and pay the screening fee.

For additional information on screening fees and the rental housing application process, visit Tenant Services – Housing Search on Solid Ground’s website.

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.

The New Guy

This post, written by Mitch Cameron, was originally published in the July 2012 issue of the Santos Place Q-Notes, a newsletter written by and published for the residents of Santos Place. Santos Place is Solid Ground’s transitional housing program for single adults at Sand Point Housing.

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

Self-portrait of Mitch, in his truck on the road to San Diego to see his mom

The New Guy

Today I am the New Guy, I moved into Santos Place two weeks ago.

Tomorrow I may be the Old Guy, who can say.

My past is unimportant, it is behind me; I won’t compete with anyone for the best story.

My future is before me and it may be formed by fate or destiny, I don’t know; I choose to believe I make my own future.

I try to live in the here and the now, this day, this moment; I am still learning.

I am the Slow Guy with a limp, except when I am on a bicycle where I am more free to travel in harmony and with speed.

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

A volcanic crater in the Pacific NW

I am no different than most people; I am an imperfect human who wishes to be a part of something to better myself and to be loved and respected.

I am the New Guy and I wish to treat all people the way I wish to be treated; with dignity and respect.

I am the New Guy, if you can, give me helpful advice, I will gladly accept and give back if I can; or a friendly greeting and I will do the same.

I am the New Guy and I have lost my way in this world and my confidence is slow to return.

I am the New Guy and I love the Great Northwest and the outdoors; including fishing and camping.

I am a Veteran of the Vietnam War and I still remember being spit upon while wearing my uniform, but still I remain “The New Guy.”

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

Recent image of a sunset at Golden Gardens Park where Mitch and friends had a bonfire

Tenant Tip: Rent Smart! Tenant Rights Workshop

Rent Smart Tenant Rights Workshop, 7/27/12, 4-6pm, Beacon Hill Library

Rent Smart Tenant Rights Workshop, 7/24/12, 4-6pm, Beacon Hill Library

Want to know more about your rights as a renter? Wondering how to get your deposit back or request a repair? Would you like to know how the new changes in the laws impact renters?

Tenant Counselors are hosting a FREE Rent Smart workshop for the community on Tuesday July 24, 4-6pm, at the Beacon Hill Library Conference Room (2821 Beacon Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144). We’ll provide information about the landlord-tenant laws in Washington State and discuss the laws and ordinances that apply throughout the housing search process, move-in, during tenancy, move-out and eviction. Bring your questions!

Since there is no agency that enforces the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in our state, it is largely up to tenants to understand the laws and know their rights in order to take appropriate action to effectively enforce them. We’ll talk about some tips and best practices for renters to help you assert your rights and have a successful tenancy – whether you are signing a rental agreement, requesting repairs or have questions about your privacy rights.

Especially with recent changes and additions to the laws, challenging situations can arise for tenants. For example, the laws around landlord entry and privacy rights changed in 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights could be compromised. There are remedies available to tenants if a landlord is not complying with the laws, but tenants have to know those remedies are available in order to use them. Knowing the laws and what steps to take, tenants can take action to correct the problem.

If you are a tenant or service provider and would like to attend the workshop, please RSVP to our Tenant Services Workshop & Advocacy Line at 206.694.6748 or email tenantwa@solid-ground.org.

We are also available to provide workshops to organizations and groups throughout King County free of charge. Please contact us if you are interested in scheduling a workshop specifically for your agency or community group. For more information, visit our website at www.solid-ground.org/Tenant.

We look forward to seeing you on July 24th!

Rent Smart Workshop Flyer, 7/24/12

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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