Tenant Services out in the community!

1991-LIHI-circleSeattle’s overheated rental market strongly impacts people living on low incomes and those experiencing homelessness. Solid Ground’s Tenant Services team has been out in the community, helping people understand their rights and resources to help them achieve stability.

United Way’s annual Community Resource Exchange took place on April 23rd at CenturyLink Field. The one-day event offered hot meals, health care, haircuts, legal and public benefits help, as well as many other services and community resource referrals all in one location. Over 1,300 people experiencing homelessness attended the resource exchange this year.

Solid Ground Tenant Counselor Chea Berra was there to provide information about our Tenant Services.

“Many attendees seemed to be quickly assessing whether the information, products or services at each table were something that could readily serve their day-to-day existence of homelessness,” Chea said. “It struck me that they were grappling with survival. To think long term – how to ensure just treatment at the hands of a future landlord, for example – was not in the realm of living on the streets. Immediate housing was what they needed and what they sought.”

That same day at the Senior Center of West Seattle, Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen hosted a panel of housing experts at a community forum. The meeting focused on senior housing issues including increased housing costs, tenant rights, affordable housing options for seniors, and information about the City of Seattle’s Utility Discount Program. Joy Scott, Solid Ground’s Supportive Services Manager, presented on tenant rights.

Seniors living on fixed incomes are particularly concerned about the rising costs of housing in the Seattle area because Social Security and retirement benefits no longer adequately cover the cost of rent. In addition, many seniors report facing discrimination based on the source of their income, and are more likely to be denied housing as a result. Longtime residents face an added challenge when rent increases occur and there is insufficient time to consider relocating, search for housing, and obtain the practical assistance for the physical aspects of moving.

Seniors interested in shared housing as a way to lower the cost of rent also spoke of age discrimination as Seattle’s rental market is dominated by young people. Unless we create fundamental changes within the rental market, seniors will continue to be displaced out of the Seattle area, or onto the streets.

You can watch Seattle Channel’s coverage of the entire forum!

The day closed with a Town Hall Meeting titled, “Rent is Out of Control!” with Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata addressing the affordable housing crisis. In addition to creating a forum for public comments, the meeting featured speakers from the Tenants Union of Washington State, the Seattle Displacement Coalition (formerly a program of Solid Ground), and Real Change.

The evening was as much about residents illustrating the grave housing problems we are facing, as it was about discussing possible solutions. Stories shared that night evidence an epidemic of preposterously high rent increases across the Seattle area, the displacement of people of color, people with disabilities, social workers and artists, and the drastically increasing homeless population as a result of the rapid decline of affordable housing that we are experiencing.

In terms of solutions, participants discussed rent control, increased public sponsored affordable housing units, and creative solutions such as converting old shipping containers into housing. Councilmember Sawant clarified for the audience that before Seattle can enact any type of rent control or stabilization, a Washington State law (RCW 35.21.830) prohibiting any city or town from regulating rent needs to be overturned. While this may seem like a large feat, hope was inspired by the reminder that in spite of the odds, Seattle recently succeeded in passing a $15 minimum wage. Councilmember Licata emphasized that in order for this issue to gain momentum, Seattle residents must take action to support and demand the need for more affordable housing solutions within the city.

Seattle Channel also videoed the Town Hall.

Are you interested in sharing your story to join the fight for affordable housing? We need to build momentum in order to expand tenant rights! Call our tenant services team at 206.694.6748!

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Rental Inspections coming to Seattle

Solid Ground tenant counselor Trish Abbate appears on KING5 newsSolid Ground tenant counselor Trish Abbate was featured in a recent KING5 story on Seattle’s new rental inspection policies. The polices are an important new consumer protection in Seattle’s overheated rental market. You can view the piece on the KING5 website.

 

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: Washington state tenants need your help TODAY!

Fair Tenant Screening Act

creditcheckFor nearly 10 years, the Fair Tenant Screening Act has been brought to our leaders in Olympia. We have achieved past successes to adopt legislation which makes the screening process more transparent. The Fair Tenant Screening Act addresses some of the most critical needs for housing accessibility in our state. While the cost of screening fees required during a housing search may seem negligible, without any change to legislation, these fees can make the difference between a family being able to move into safe and affordable housing, or having to remain living in substandard and potentially unhealthy housing.

This week, HB 1257 passed in the Washington state House of Representatives and is now moving to the Senate. If passed, it would make tenant screening reports more fair and affordable for all renters. We need YOUR help to make this happen!

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TAKE ACTION NOW!

Call the Legislative Hotline at 1.800.562.6000 and tell your Senators to make tenant screening reports fair and affordable. 

SAMPLE MESSAGE:

Protect renters from unfair screening practices by supporting reform through the Fair Tenant Screening Act. All Washington state residents deserve a fair chance at obtaining a safe and stable place to call home.”

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What would this bill change? 

This bill would make the costs of the housing search fair and affordable. It would allow tenants the option of paying one fee for an online report that is valid for 30 days. Within this time frame, any landlord to whom a prospective tenant is applying for housing can access the tenant’s comprehensive report, protecting the tenant from repeated fees for screening. This bill does not change or limit the information that landlords have access to in any way, and a landlord may still order additional reports at their own expense if desired.

Why this bill is important

Currently, tenants are required to pay screening fees that range from $30 to $75 per household member over 18, each and every time they apply for an apartment. Whether you face other hurdles to overcome during the housing search or not, the high cost of repeated screening fees can quickly accumulate and mean the difference between being able to secure housing and being homeless.

What you can do to help!

Housing Advocates have been working very hard this legislative session to make significant improvements for tenants in Washington state. This bill was passed out of the House of Representatives on March 5, 2015, but now must be voted out of the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. We need your help NOW! We cannot make these changes without you!

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TAKE ACTION NOW!

DON’T DELAY! Call the Legislative Hotline at 1.800.562.6000 and tell your Senators to make tenant screening reports fair and affordable. 

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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.

CANCELLED: Tenant Rights Workshop in Wallingford, 1/30/14

We apologize for the late notice, but we’ve had to cancel this workshop due to staff schedules. We hope to reschedule within the next couple of weeks and will post here when we have a new date.

RENT SMART WORKSHOP:
For current & future renters & tenant advocates

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.

Rent Smart Tenant Rights WorkshopsWHEN / WHERE:
Rescheduled date/location TBD

We’ll cover topics such as:

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

Since we are in the middle of the legislative session from January 13 to March 13, we will also provide an update on any potential legislation that our lawmakers are considering. You can advocate by signing a letter to send to your lawmakers to support the Fair Tenant Screening Act or other legislation that benefits renters!

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: 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.

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.

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