Many mistakenly believe California has the most tenant protection laws and most liberal rental policies in the country. There are a few states on the east coast that are far more tenant friendly, but on the west coast that prize goes to the State of Washington. If legislatures are looking for more laws to make managing properties more difficult, they may want to entertain the laws that Spokane, Washington is currently considering. Proposition 10 was soundly defeated, and the attempt to repeal Costa-Hawkins, which could have included single family homes and condominiums in the rent control pool, and now I doubt there will be another statewide attempt to push rent control. Local cities may still pursue rent control as it is currently configured, meaning it will apply to multi-unit buildings older than 1994, but the legislature will probably implement measures that provide more benefits to tenants. There are no shortage of options, and here is some laws and measures being bandied about in Spokane:
- “Just Cause” Eviction – Without rent control in place, the effectiveness of “just cause” eviction is reduced. You can still increase the rent which induces the tenant to move on their own volition. But “just cause” can apply to situations where the tenant is given notice and they feel it was in retaliation for a complaint or a request for repair.
- New Landlord Requirements – They may require owners of investment properties in the city to register with the housing authority, pay for a business license ($118/year) and pass a certification course ($250).
- Security Deposit Changes – Tenants complain about the high amount required for security deposits so new laws would require landlords to accept surety bonds (typically 4% of the security deposit) in lieu of a cash security deposit meaning landlords would have to battle a third party for any damages to their property and tenants would be allowed to pay their security deposit over the period of the lease (e.g., if the security deposit were $1,200 and the lease 12 months, the tenant could pay $100 a month).
- Renter “Bill of Rights” – A tenant would be entitled to a Bill of Rights that would include a limit on how far back an owner could look for an eviction filing, allow tenants to make repairs and bill the owner, make an owner pay for moving expenses if the tenant is non-renewed, legal services for tenants paid for by owners and annual housing inspections.
- Property Maintenance Code – This would force owners to improve properties beyond health and safety and require owners to address exterior issues such as roofing and siding.
- Extend the Termination Period from 20 to 90 Days – Right now, once a tenant has violated the contract, they have 20 days from the court ordered right of possession to the owner to move. This would increase that period to 90 days meaning a tenant could live rent free in the property for 3 months.
Don’t be surprised to see these measures, or variations of them, to be considered in our state. Statewide rent control changes was easily defeated, and that battle was won. Now comes the war of making tenants a protected class and creating grief for investment property owners.