Tacoma City Council has been working on stricter Landlord-Tenant laws in response to the highly publicized mass eviction at the Tiki Apartments during the spring of 2018, where a local developer acquired a mismanaged, low-end apartment complex with the intention to renovate and add value. Residents of all 58 units received notices to vacate with a relocation benefit of $900 if the tenants moved out in time.
Tacoma’s stated goals for the new legislation are:
- More proactive approaches to prevent increases in the homeless population
Better protections for tenants and provide specific guidance to landlords
Ordinance 28559 was finally passed into law on November 20, 2018. Here are the changes you should know about:
- Prospective tenants shall receive a link to a Tacoma web page that publishes information about the landlord’s code violations and settlements related to housing discrimination.
- Distribute information on tenant rights and responsibilities to new tenants at inception of tenancy and lease renewal. Existing tenants must also receive this information, and landlords are to collect signatures that the information was delivered. Updates should be delivered to tenants within 30 days of the City publishing changes.
- Tenants may request to pay move-in expenses in installments if fees exceed 25% of the first full month or if last month’s rent is required. Landlords must agree to three installments over the course of a three-month or longer tenancy; two installments for two-month and month to month tenancies.
- Notice for no cause termination raised from 20 days to 60 days.
- 120-day notice to vacate when the owner plans to demolish, renovate, rehabilitates, or change the use of the property. Relocation assistance must be provided for qualifying households.
- City of Tacoma has the power to set fines for certain violations of landlord-tenant law
- Notice to raise rent has increased from 30 days to 60 days, effective December, 7 2018
- All other parts of this law are effective February 1, 2019
As a Tacoma landlord, I don’t expect this will shake things up too much for us. For example, we already work with tenants on installments if required.
Other landlords may find that the installment plan for move-in deposits increases the risk of loss if a tenant damages the unit in the first few weeks of tenancy. If that’s true, that could lead to landlords raising the standards on their tenant screening criteria, creating even more scarcity of affordable housing.
The biggest impact is to developers who acquire properties to significantly rehabilitate and add value. They will need to factor in the expense of additional time before they can start their project and relocation assistance payments. This won’t stop developers. Rather these costs will be baked into their project plans and would result in either lower offer prices to existing owners, higher rents/sales prices after renovation, or both.
Remember: Seek the advice of a landlord-tenant attorney and read Tacoma’s Rental Housing Code for yourself for the full details on what’s new.