What does the Washington State Bill 5160 mean for a Tenant

In April 2021, the Senate Bill 5160 “LANDLORD-TENANT RELATIONS” took effect in the Washington State and reformed landlord tenant in the aftermath of COVID pandemic. This article covers what the bill means for the Tenant. What the bill means for the landlord is covered here

Initial Lease Application

A landlord may not refuse an application for a rental housing apartments based on a tenant’s medical history. The landlord may not ask for any kind of medical records to establish whether a tenant has been exposed to COVID-19 virus unless if the medical tests are needed to qualify for a repayment program.

Situations involving unpaid rent

For unpaid rent for the period March 1st 2020 (roughly the start of COVID) to March 31s 2021 (Six months after moratorium expires), a landlord cannot:

  • Ask for any fees 
  • Take any action or evict a tenant

If a tenant owes rent , the landlord must offer the tenant a payment plan that the tenant can easily pay. 

If a tenant does not accept the conditions of repayment plan within 14 days of the landlord’s offer, the landlord may contact the court and file an application.

Repayment Plan

Any repayment plan should not ask for payment until the renter has been provided for personal loan for 30 days.

The personal loan covers only the rent component and not late fees, attorney’s fees, or any other fees or penalties.

The repayment plan may allow payment from any charitable organization or any charitable fund, or any religious organization. The landlord is also allowed to take payment from the tenant if he/she is funded by the government or any of these charitable organization.

After a Repayment Plan is Agreed On

If a tenant fails to pay any rent due under a repayment plan, the landlord may request for compensation from the landlord mitigation program as permitted by the court. 

The court has to look at the tenant’s low income and unemployment if the landlord files a report against the tenant.

If the tenant cannot pay rent according to the repayment plan then he/she is allowed to take benefits from the government. 

Rent Reimbursement Program 

The landlord or the tenant can get relief for overdue rent from a government department’s relief fund established to bring relief to tenants and help landlords by preserving tenancies.

The government department will reimburse the citizen through the landlord mitigation fund.

Application for Rent Reimbursement

The form to apply for this fund can be found on the department’s website but the tenant has to provide all evidence to get confirmation for the department for it relief fund.  The department may accept or deny this form according to the evidence provided to them from the tenant or the landlord. 

The department may refuse this relief if the evidence is not according to their satisfaction.

This relief or sum amount of money to pay for overdue rent can be taken from a federal, state, municipal, private, or nonprofit program. The department creates rule for the landlord mitigation program but it depends upon the funds being available.

The department can declare rules for its funds as they see fit. They may accept or deny application from tenants or landlords.  If the property rented out to people is damaged or needs refurbishment, the landlord has to make damages repair of it if it is up to $1000 then the landlord can ask for $500 from the landlord mitigation program. 

If the landlord rents out the rental apartments to an unemployed or a low income tenant then the department reimbursement includes up to fourteen days of lost rental revenue.

Reimbursement for overdue rent and bills is available from the mitigation fund if the landlord can provide evidence for the satisfaction of the department.

Effect on Writ of Resitution Case

A court order stopping the writ of restitution must accompany any application for compensation. If a tenant is able to pay rent and he has no concerns against the low income the cannot take benefit from this fund. After the court rules in landlord favor the landlord has to file satisfaction report to the court. If the court does not reply for the landlord’s application fund in 14 days then the landlord should file another application.

If the tenant has a low income then the landlord can get relief fund on tenant’s behalf from the department. Either the landlord or the court has to find whether the tenant is low incomed or limited resourced. The court or the landlord can find out the tenant is low incomed by looking at the living expenses, house of the tenant or other factors. If the tenant cannot pay rent for six months after the repayment plan has been set then the tenant should vacate the apartment.

If the tenants can provide evidence for his/her low income from any institution then they can take benefit from the court. If the tenant needs relief in emergency the court will make sure that he/she gets the approval for the fund as soon as possible. The court has to pass the application for reimbursement fund within 90 days so that due rent does not get accumulated. 

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