‘How are we supposed to not end up on the street?’: Renters worry as eviction moratorium protections end

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Thursday he was not extending all the current eviction moratorium that’s been in place for over a year. It expires on June 30, and he’s instead creating a bridge to help renters and landlords get back on track.

The new program will begin on July 1 and run through Sept. 30. The governor says there’s over $650 million dollars available that hasn’t been used to help renters and landlords with unpaid debt.

He says local governments haven’t had enough time to allocate these resources, so this new program will fill the gap as programs get established.

“Local governments have a difficult task in processing these claims, but they’re involved in it now and working to get it done in a timely fashion,” said Gov. Inslee. “This bridge is necessary to protect against homelessness for people while these plans are put into implementation.”

Inslee stressed the money is available and ready to use, but many are still struggling to access the assistance they need.

“It’s so frustrating because nobody will give you a straight answer of what to do, where do I go and who can I talk to,” said Colleen Baugus, a local renter. “It’s just hard to get it, it’s really hard. It brings you to tears sometimes.”

Renters are expected to start paying rent in full by Aug. 1. However, a landlord and tenant can work together to negotiate a lower rate. There are still protections in place before landlords can evict, but current rent freezes won’t continue.

Landlords will only be able to evict:
1. Once all counties have an operational rent assistance program in place.
2. When landlords have talked with tenants about repayment and created a plan for them.
3. If the renters are not currently taking steps to find rental assistance.

“In this transition plan, it does not prohibit rent increases,” said Jim Baumgart, a Senior Policy Advisor.

This is concerning for Baugus because she’s on a fixed income only earning money from social security and disability. She says she won’t be able to keep up if her rent rises.

“I think that rent freezes should still be there. There’s too many people still struggling, way too many people still struggling,” Baugus said. “How are we supposed to not end up on the street is what scares me.”

Washington is also preparing for evictions by being the first state to pass right to counsel laws for tenants facing evictions. If someone makes less than $25,760 a year and if a couple makes less than $53,000 a year, they can receive legal assistance for free if evicted.