Auburn City Hall. FILE PHOTO

Auburn City Hall. FILE PHOTO

Council votes to prohibit evictions in Auburn

For area tenants who have lost their jobs to the pandemic and can’t make the rent right now, being bounced to the streets is a nightmare prospect.

And it could happen in a few days.

Because without extension, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s temporary moratorium on residential tenant evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic expires Aug. 1.

On July 20, the Auburn City Council approved a temporary law to help city residents weather this predicament should Inslee not extend the moratorium.

Inslee issued the statewide proclamation Feb. 29. What the city’s new rules say is that as long as the statewide proclamation lasts, then landlords and mobile home landlords and property owners and property managers won’t be able to collect unpaid rent or other charges that tenants have incurred because of COVID-19.

This ban, which applies to any amendments or additions to the proclamation since that day, prohibits any attempts or threats to collect through a collection agency. It also prohibits filing an action to evict, or withholding any portion of a security deposit, or billing or invoicing, reporting to credit bureaus or any other means.

This prohibition, however, does not apply to those landlords, property owners, or property managers who can offer convincing evidence to a court that the resident was offered, and refused or failed to comply with a re-payment plan that was reasonable based on the individual tenant’s financial health and other circumstances.

The new chapter of the city code expires when there are no remaining payments due and/or enforcement actions that could be brought — or one year after the effective date of this ordinance, whichever comes first.

Last week at a study session, the council discussed a much more sweeping Just Cause Eviction Ordinance modeled on the one implemented by the city of Burien. City staff whittled that multi-page document to a few paragraphs Monday afternoon to apply strictly to the temporary COVID-19 rental enforcement.

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus noted that the ordinance the council passed July 20, however, did retain some of the COVID-19 language referenced in the original document.

“What staff decided today is that with the (public) comments coming in today, both much in favor of the full ordinance of just-cause evictions, and some that are against the just-cause-eviction ordinance that was originally provided to you, that we would make sure we had the opportunity in place for the COVID language on the outside chance that Gov. Inslee does not extend his COVID-19 eviction moratorium, and that is there now time for us to work with some of the opponents and proponents of the original ordinance.”

Backus said the original JCEO will be up for discussion and additional work at the Aug. 10 study session, and if the council is in agreement that night, it could appear on the Aug. 17 agenda for a final vote.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus as an official global pandemic. On Jan. 31, the United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency because of COVID-19. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also declared a state of emergency due to new cases of COVID-19.

On March 5, Backus declared a local emergency due to growing public health impacts of COVID-19.

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