With Washington’s eviction moratorium recently extended through Aug. 1, local renters who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic are breathing a sigh of relief.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on evictions in mid-March. His latest version more explicitly says landlords and tenants should work together to form personalized payment plans, said Elizabeth Fitzgearld, executive director of the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program.
“We know that can be scary for tenants to initiate sometimes,” she said, which is where legal aid organizations like hers come into play.
The extended moratorium reminds tenants that if they can pay rent, they should. Tim Murphy, an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project’s Vancouver office, encourages tenants to inform their landlords in writing if they cannot pay rent, so there is a paper trail. Jessi Anderson, legal director with Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program, added that tenants should keep copies of all notices and communication with their landlord, even if it’s just a cellphone picture of a written document.
If a landlord retaliates against a tenant by threatening to evict them or by not offering a reasonable payment plan, the moratorium says that retaliation can be used as a legal defense, Murphy said.