PRESS RELEASE: Washington Tenants Organized and Won Eviction Reform

Tenants are celebrating the biggest reform to the landlord-tenant act in decades. Today, the legislature passed SB 5600, a bill introduced in response to community demands for a more just eviction process. We expect the bill to be signed by Gov. Jay Inslee and to go into effect later this summer.

Gina Owens, a long-time Washington CAN member who shared her personal story with eviction, testified in front of lawmakers, and connected with tenants facing eviction to help them organize their own neighbors, said “I am incredibly excited this legislation has passed. As someone who lived through two years of homelessness due to eviction, I know how much this will help people who fall behind on rent due to health emergencies like I did. By passing this bill, lawmakers are telling tenants that we matter.”

As detailed in Losing Home: The Human Cost of Eviction, a report authored by the Seattle Women’s Commission and the King County Bar Association Housing Justice Project, Washington’s previous eviction process desperately need reform. The leading reason tenants faced eviction was for falling behind a month or less on rent, most tenants fell into homelessness, and communities of color were disproportionately impacted by eviction.

This new legislation creates a more equitable and humane eviction process. The notice period for nonpayment of rent will go from only three days to 14 days. Judges will be able to use their discretion to order solutions that keep tenants housed and ensure landlords get paid, such as requiring payment plans to pay back-rent.

Washington CAN members organized over the past year across the state and demanded justice from their landlords and their lawmakers. Examples of this organizing include:

● Keilani Luxmore, a young Seattle mother, testified to lawmakers on this bill sharing her experience getting an eviction notice for falling behind on rent by only $2.

● Violeta Sialer, a school bus driver, immigrant, and single mother in Issaquah; exposed Washington’s flawed eviction laws when she organized her neighbors in low-income housing to push back against her landlord who had repeatedly issued evictions to tenants over trivial issues.

● Sarah Stewart, an evicted tenant who pushed the Seattle Housing Authority to reform their eviction policies

We’re proud to support the movement tenants are leading, and grateful for the support of coalition partners and organizations that stand with tenants who are organizing. The Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance used their institutional knowledge to help shepard this bill through the legislature. The Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee and the Tenants Union of Washington pushed lawmakers to support this bill. The King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project has been a critical ally in this fight - their attorneys represent tenants every day facing eviction, and used this experience and knowledge to help craft this landmark legislation that will ease our eviction crisis.

We are also grateful for the leadership demonstrated by legislators fighting for this legislation. Senator Patty Kuderer and Representative Nicole Macri introduced eviction reform legislation and worked with stakeholders to develop a strong policy. Representative Laurie Jinkins, as a committee chair, helped pushed this bill through the process. Representative Melanie Morgan shared her own experience of eviction with both the public and her colleagues on the floor.

Grassroots organizing is the key to winning critical victories for racial, economic, and gender justice - victories like today’s passage of Eviction Reform. Statewide, tenants are building power collectively to enact common sense protections for our communities and we look forward to the next fight.