Navigating the maze of renter protections | Housing Hub

Justine Gonzalez-Berg
Posted 9/24/21

As the housing market climbs and Delta puts our local economy’s recovery back into question, renter protections are more important than ever, yet also more complicated. 

Up until now, …

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Navigating the maze of renter protections | Housing Hub

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As the housing market climbs and Delta puts our local economy’s recovery back into question, renter protections are more important than ever, yet also more complicated. 

Up until now, rent assistance and the eviction moratorium have been the main tools to keep as many people safely housed as possible, to prevent homelessness and the spread of COVID-19. 

Now, the eviction moratorium is over, yet evictions for non-payment of rent are still protected until Sept. 30 and the Eviction Resolution Program has been introduced as a new tool for keeping people housed. This shifting landscape is important for everyone to understand, because tenants are our neighbors and local workers. 

OlyCAP is the main local agency distributing rent assistance funds and their housing services staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to get assistance to those who need it. Currently, they are providing rental assistance through the Treasury Rental Assistance Program (T-RAP) program, which became available in April/May 2021. The T-RAP money is meant to reach low-income households who have been impacted by the pandemic, including those who were not eligible for other rental assistance programs. 

The Department of Commerce (DOC) has allocated $1,603,584 to Jefferson County for rent and utility assistance under the T-RAP program. 

Between April and August 2021 only $251,779 was distributed, which is 15.7 percent of the allocated funds. 

Yet, the greatest amount distributed of those five months was in August, which points to a growing number of applicants. The DOC notes that it expects “spending for T-RAP to significantly increase over the next few months.”

At the same time as these funds are finally reaching families that need rent assistance, eviction protections for non-payment of rent are ending soon, meaning it is critical that these funds reach people before they lose housing security. 

The new tool for avoiding evictions is called the Eviction Resolution Program (ERP), which Jefferson County’s Superior Court chose to opt into along with many other counties in Washington. The ERP is designed to help landlords and tenants resolve matters together, rather than engaging in official eviction proceedings through the court. 

The EPR works through existing Dispute Resolution Centers to help landlords and tenants craft rent repayment plans, and resolve conflicts to meet each party’s needs. Our local court system is requiring that landlords give tenants official notice about local rent assistance, mediation, and legal assistance resources, and that landlords make an effort to engage with tenants about rental repayment before filing the official eviction paperwork with the court. Tenants who receive an official notice inviting their participation in the Eviction Resolution Program need to respond within 14 days, indicating that, yes, they would like to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan and avoid eviction. The Peninsula Dispute Resolution Center will help Jefferson County landlords and tenants.

On Friday, Sept. 24 Clallam-Jefferson Pro Bono Lawyers will hold an online presentation about the legal landscape of eviction for tenants, landlords, lawyers, and advocates alike. 

Find more info at cjcpbl.org and housingsolutionsnetwork.org/stay-housed. 

Sources: https://www.commerce.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/hau-t-rap-award-chart-by-county.pdf

https://deptofcommerce.app.box.com/s/xxgujafuzvd176qltq84s8nsllitlep0/file/860831656402

(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and a volunteer board member of Olympic Housing Trust.)

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