Did you get behind in paying rent because of COVID?
Are you a renter who is still struggling to pay rent for reasons related to COVID-19? We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor may be able to help.
First, let’s take a look at the background.
In an effort to maintain public health during the outbreak of the coronavirus, Washington State declared an eviction moratorium so that those who were sick, had lost their jobs or had other changes in their circumstances that made it difficult to pay the rent, could not legally be evicted from their rentals.
The moratorium was originally set to expire Sept. 30. However, in June, Gov. Jay Inslee announced an eviction moratorium “bridge” which prevented landlords from evicting tenants for any rent owed from Feb. 29, 2020, through July 31, 2021.
If you owe rent for time between Feb. 29, 2020, to July 31, 2021, your landlord must offer a reasonable repayment plan of no more than one-third of the monthly rent. If you owe any monies during this time your landlord cannot send you a 14-day notice until you seek rental assistance to pay your rent, then allow you time to participate in the ERP Eviction Resolution Program in Grays Harbor County. Contact Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) in downtown Aberdeen for that program.
A landlord must also offer mediation through an Eviction Resolution Program before attempting to evict you. You can contact the Dispute Resolution Center of Grays Harbor and Pacific County at (360) 532-8950.
In addition, you can visit washingtonlawhelp.org to enter in your county and available rental assistance programs will show what is available.
Since Aug. 1, unless renters negotiate another amount with their landlord or are seeking rental assistance, renters are expected to pay full rent. Also, landlords in Washington State must offer their tenants a reasonable repayment plan before starting the eviction process. However, those protections only remain in effect through midnight Oct. 31 ,2021.
And for some renters behind in their rent, that is scarier than Halloween!
We can help
Our housing counselor here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, Julie Galligan, is available free of charge to explain to renters what their options are as they try to get current on their rent.
She knows the latest information on what landlords can and cannot evict for after Oct. 31, as well as programs that may have some rental assistance available.
In addition, Julie is an expert in helping people to objectively look at their finances and prepare a tentative payment plan to propose to their landlord.
Other places to find help
We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor can help you figure out your finances and also point you to other places and programs that can assist you. As we mentioned CCAP is one place to go to find actual rental assistance in Grays Harbor. In addition, it also has utility assistance available.
Landlords are people too
In our organization, we provide information and help to both renters and landlords. We are aware that this moratorium could put quite a strain on the income of landlords.
Renters must remember that paying their rent is what pays for the landlord’s mortgage, utilities, taxes, insurance and repair expenses. Renters should make an earnest effort to pay what they can and work out the rest over time. We suggest both parties communicate and work together.
We also help landlords know their rights and responsibilities. For instance, if a landlord offered a renter a reasonable repayment plan for the past rent owed and the renters doesn’t respond or agree to it within 14 days, the landlord can begin the eviction process. Also evictions for things other than rent are allowed again and landlords must follow the rules to give proper notice.
“The new state law even says what the reasonable repayment would be,” said Julie. “It is no more than one-third of your back rent in addition to your current rent. … And, if the renter’s income has decreased it could be less than that third plus the current rent,” she said.
NeighborWorks is a non-profit housing agency that offers free help and impartial advice for Grays Harbor residents about housing and financial issues. You can contact Julie at (360) 533-7828. Leave a message if she isn’t able to talk to you immediately.