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!

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.

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: Tenants’ Rights Workshops, 7/23 & 24

Rent Smart Tenant Rights WorkshopsNext week, Solid Ground Tenant Services is offering two opportunities 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.

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

Rent Smart: For current & future renters & tenant advocates
Tuesday, July 23, 5-7pm
Bellevue City Hall (450 110th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA)
Room 1E-108

Landlord-Tenant Law Overview for Service Providers
Wednesday, July 24, 10am-12pm
Lifelong AIDS Alliance (1002 E Seneca St, Seattle, WA)
Enter from the lower level parking lot at right set of doors.

Whether you are a long-time renter who would like a refresher on landlord-tenant laws, or a new renter who wants to know what your rights and responsibilities are as a renter, we hope you will join us for a workshop! Email questions regarding the workshops 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 on Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30am and 4:30pm.

Community Report 2012: ‘Breaking the cycle of generational poverty’

Solid Ground's Community Report 2012

Solid Ground’s Community Report 2012

Hot off the press! Solid Ground’s report to our community on our 2012 work and accomplishments is now available. “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” reports on recent impacts we’ve made in our community. But it also highlights the long-term positive change our programs can have in the lives of the people who access our services, and the ripple effect this has on their children’s lives.

As Solid Ground approaches our 40th anniversary, we remain focused and committed to our mission to end poverty in our community, and to help our society become one without racism and other oppressions.

Our engagement in this work is only possible through the support of passionate and committed employees, donors, volunteers, and government and nonprofit partners. With this continued support, we look forward to working ever more purposefully to help families and individuals overcome the challenges of living in poverty and progress to a place of thriving.

Feel free to share “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” with others who may be interested in our work. If you’re not already on our mailing list and would like a hard copy of the report mailed to you, please email your mailing address to publications@solid-ground.org.

Tenant Rights Workshop in Federal Way 6/10/13

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 new changes in the laws impact renters?

House for RentSolid Ground Tenant Counselors are hosting another FREE Rent Smart Workshop for the community on Monday, June 10, 4:30pm-6:30pm, in Federal Way at the Multi-Service Center Conference Room (1200 S. 336th, Federal Way, WA 98003). We’ll provide information about 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 tenant screening changed in 2012 and 2013, requiring landlords to provide written notice of their screening criteria before they screen a tenant that has applied for housing (see our Tenant Tip from March 2012 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, they could be unfairly denied housing without knowing why. 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 at 206.694.6748 if you are interested in scheduling a workshop 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 June 10th!

RentSmartWorkshopsFlyer_FedWay_6-10-13

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: ACLU files lawsuit against tenant screening company

Markeletta Wilson filed a lawsuit seeking a court order requiring RentGrow and Yardi Systems to end their violations of Washington’s Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Markeletta Wilson filed a lawsuit seeking a court order requiring RentGrow and Yardi Systems to end their violations of Washington’s Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced Thursday morning, April 4, 2013, that they are representing Markeletta Wilson in a lawsuit filed against RentGrow, a corporation that specializes in tenant screening. The ACLU lawsuit addresses RentGrow’s unfair denial of Ms. Wilson’s rental application in 2012 in Tukwila, WA. The denial was based solely on her criminal record from two decades ago, including two convictions for drug possession in 1988 and 1995. The screening company violated the Washington Fair Credit Reporting Act by reporting criminal history from over seven years ago.

Since tenant screening companies are largely unregulated, it’s expected that Ms. Wilson’s experience is not uncommon. The case has been filed as a class action lawsuit, as the attorneys believe RentGrow’s screening practices have likely impacted numerous other renters across the state.

Solid Ground and the Washington State Tenants Union participated in the ACLU press conference on Thursday to speak about the effects that unfair tenant screening practices have on families who are trying to secure stable housing. When screening companies use information that is outdated or incorrect, it makes it difficult for tenants with a criminal background to find stable housing and often leads people to become homeless.

Solid Ground’s housing programs work with over 5,000 clients each year, including hundreds of families who are staying with friends and family, sleeping on couches, or staying in shelters because they are unable to secure permanent housing because of unfair screening practices. All people deserve a fair chance to obtain stable, healthy housing, which allows them to then find stable employment and avoid recidivism.

This is an important step forward in making the process of tenant screening more fair for all tenants across Washington State. We are proud to stand beside the ACLU as they work to make safe, stable housing accessible for all people!

You can read the full story on the ACLU’s website in Woman Unfairly Denied Housing Sues Tenant Screening Company. The The Seattle Times and KPLU 88.5 FM also covered the story.

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: 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.

Tenant Tip: Rent Smart Workshop, 4/2/13

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 new changes in the laws impact renters?

House for RentSolid Ground Tenant Counselors are hosting a FREE Rent Smart Workshop for the community on Tuesday, April 2, 5-7pm, at the Douglass-Truth Library Conference Room (2300 E. Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98122). We’ll provide information about 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 at 206.694.6748 if you are interested in scheduling a workshop 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 April 2nd!

4 2 13 RentSmartWorkshopsFlyer_DouglassTruthLib

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.

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: Coming Soon – Seattle’s Rental Housing Inspection Program

Seattle skylineIf you live in the City of Seattle, a new ordinance passed on October 1, 2012 which will affect tenants in residential housing. The Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP) requires landlords to register their rental properties within Seattle so they can be periodically inspected. While the program will not be implemented until 2014, the Department of Planning and Development will be working with stakeholders throughout 2013 to work out details, such as establishing a fee structure and inspection standards. It is exciting to see Seattle take proactive measures to protect renters and make sure the available rental housing is safe and habitable!

The program will be introduced gradually over the next several years, with the goal of inspecting all rental properties – but not necessarily all units – over the next 10 years. Registration will begin with properties that have five or more units in January 2014, followed by inspections beginning in 2015. All other types of rental housing – single family, duplex, triplex, etc. – will need to register by December 31, 2016. Inspection of all other units will begin in 2017.

Inspections will not be intrusive for renters since they will typically occur very infrequently. Once a property is inspected, it will not be subject to another inspection for at least five years, unless there have been Notices of Violation issued by the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD). There will be requirements for inspectors to provide notice to renters in advance of the inspection, similar to the privacy laws within the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (see our blog post for notices required in residential housing).

RHIP is different from the current complaint-based system that relies on tenants to report code violations to Code Enforcement Inspectors at the DPD. Because of the risk of retaliation from landlords, some tenants are hesitant to contact code enforcement. RHIP will provide a more proactive way of making sure that housing is safe and habitable for renters by periodically inspecting all buildings. While tenants can still report code violations to the DPD, RHIP has the added benefit that anyone in the community – including housing advocates, police officers, neighbors, etc. – can call and alert the city to units that they suspect are uninhabitable.

Housing advocates are already working with the City to determine how to implement the new legislation and discuss how education about the program will take place over the next couple of years. For reliable information about the new ordinance, visit the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s website. It explains in detail the timeline for completing inspections for each type of rental housing.  The Tenants Union website also offers information specifically for renters about the Rental Housing Inspection Program.

In addition to the DPD and the Tenants Union, renters can also call the Tenant Services Hotline at Solid Ground with any questions regarding your rights as a tenant, questions about the Residential Landlord Tenant Act or City of Seattle ordinances. The message line is 206.694.6767 and our hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm.

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.

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.

Tenant Tip: Fair Tenant Screening Act passed!

Credit check imageIn March 2012, the Fair Tenant Screening Act (Senate Bill 6315) passed in the Washington State Legislature, creating new regulations for how landlords and tenant screening companies can screen prospective tenants. A new section of the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) reflects the regulations – and two RLTA sections and one Fair Credit Reporting Act section were amended to include the law changes. SB 6315 goes into effect on 6/7/12.

Section 59.18.257 of the RLTA now includes the following new requirements for criteria used in tenant screening:

  • Tenants can only be charged screening report fees if the landlord provides eligibility requirements prior to screening. Before performing a screening or background check on a prospective tenant, landlords must first provide written notice detailing the information they will access to determine if a tenant is accepted or denied housing – as well as what specific criteria can be grounds for denial.
  • If a landlord uses a consumer reporting agency to determine tenant eligibility, they are required to provide tenants the name and address of the agency. Landlords must also inform tenants of their rights to obtain a free copy of the agency’s report and to dispute any errors in the report if they are denied housing or experience other adverse actions.
  • If a landlord does not use a consumer reporting agency and instead screens tenants on their own, they can charge tenants a screening fee – but the fee cannot exceed the standard amount charged by screening companies in the general area.
  • If a landlord denies an applicant or takes any other adverse action against prospective tenants, the landlord is required to provide tenants written notice listing specific information such as: reasons for denial, information used to deny or take adverse action, etc. The notice must include the date, address and signature of the landlord or agent.
  • If a landlord fails to follow the proper steps in conducting a tenant screening, they can be held liable for up to $100 plus court and reasonable attorney fees.

These new requirements provide more organized regulations for tenant screening and allow prospective tenants to know what information will be used to determine their acceptance or denial before paying screening fees. However, reports often contain inaccurate and misleading information, and tenants are not made aware of this until after they have been denied housing and paid fees. (Our November 2011 Tenant Screening blog post describes some housing barriers that unfair, misleading and inaccurate screening reports can create for low-income families, domestic violence survivors and many others.) So despite the new regulations, screening costs and misinformation in screening reports continue to prevent thousands of families from getting into housing.

A group of stakeholders – including tenant advocates, landlord groups and representatives of consumer reporting and screening agencies – will convene to address tenant screening costs and the information included in screening reports. This group will provide recommendations to the legislature by December 1, 2012.

Individuals who have paid multiple screening fees, have been wrongfully denied housing by a screening company or landlord, or face other housing barriers due to tenant screening are encouraged to share their experiences to help influence the recommendations made and increase the regulations to better protect tenants. To find out more about the law changes and how you can share your experiences to make the most beneficial recommendations, contact Solid Ground’s Tenant Advocacy Line at 206.694.6748 or email 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 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

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