Seattle Extends Moratorium on Evictions for Small Businesses; Washington State Blocks New Commercial Rent Hikes

August 22, 2020Alerts

Emphasizing that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency that continues to have an economic impact on the city, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an Executive Order to extend orders from March that prohibit Seattle landlords from evicting residents, small business or nonprofit tenants due to unpaid rent or an expired lease term.

The new Executive Order continues the eviction moratorium for such tenants until December 31, 2020 or the termination of the City of Seattle’s declared civil emergency, whichever is earlier.

The order does not change the substantive terms of Mayor Durkan’s March order. For example, the new order does not expressly relieve tenants from rent obligations, instead encouraging landlords to finalize rent relief agreements such as payment plans, discounted rent periods, or similar rent reduction strategies. The prohibition of late fees, interest and related charges because of late rental payments, however, continue while the moratorium is in effect. And a small business is still defined as any business entity, including sole proprietorships, owned and operated independently from all other businesses with 50 or fewer employees per an establishment or premises.

Mayor Durkan’s recent order follows Gov. Jay Inslee’s amendment to Proclamation 20-19 that extended the state's moratorium on residential evictions to October 15, 2020. Although Proclamation 20-19.3 focuses on COVID-19’s impact on housing, it also prohibits a commercial landlord in Washington state from raising rent “if the commercial tenant has been materially impacted by the COVID-19 [pandemic], whether personally impacted and is unable to work or whether the business itself was deemed non-essential pursuant to Proclamation 20-25 or otherwise lost staff or customers due to the COVID-19 outbreak.” (Proclamation 20-19.3, pp. 5-6.) This rent increase prohibition is also until October 15, 2020; however, the amended proclamation clarifies that a rent increase for a commercial tenant included in an existing lease signed before February 29, 2020 is enforceable.

If you are a landlord or a commercial or nonprofit tenant and have questions about how the above orders and proclamation affect your rights and obligations in your lease, we can help you develop strategies to resolve such landlord and tenant issues.