OLYMPIA — A “right to counsel” measure has been signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, making Washington the first state to ensure that low-income tenants have legal representation when faced with an eviction.
The Seattle Times reports that Inslee signed the bill Thursday, and the state’s Office of Civil Legal Aid now has 90 days to draft a plan to implement the law within a year.
The new law will provide attorneys to tenants who receive certain public assistance, have been involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility, can’t afford a lawyer or who have incomes at 125% or less of the federal poverty level.
Several cities, including Seattle, have passed right to counsel laws, and seven other states are considering similar measures.
More than 160,000 Washington households are estimated to be behind on rent as of late March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, nearly 11% of households renting in the state.
The most recent state moratorium on evictions is set to expire June 30, and the bill reinforces that the moratorium will end then. The law doesn’t exclude the possibility of the governor extending the moratorium again, something that advocates are pushing him to do so.