KENT, Wash. - After several tenants in Kent talked to their City Council members about being terminated from their leases without a reason, two council members are now gathering more information to consider a tenant protection ordinance.
Currently, Seattle is the only city known to have a ‘just cause eviction’ ordinance, which lists a number of reasons a landlord is allowed to ask a tenant to leave. The ordinance also outlines how many days’ notice the landlord must give.
But elsewhere in the state, there are no laws about this. A landlord can give 20 days’ notice to terminate a lease, without needing to give a reason.
Rory O’Sullivan, a lawyer with the King County Housing Justice Project, said this can happen to tenants who near the end of their leases, or at any time if one pays month-to-month.
O’Sullivan said some leases roll over into month-to-month contracts when the term is up.
“But there are some leases that will say this is a six-month lease. At the end of those six months, your lease is over, and the landlord doesn’t have to give you any notice,” O’Sullivan said. He said signing the lease serves as that notice.
Two tenants who talked to KIRO 7 said they had always paid their rents on time.
But Princilla Johnson-Dinish said she and her husband were asked to leave the Bryson Square Apartments in Kent last year, when their one-year lease was up. She had expected to renew, but was instead given 20 days to leave.
“My husband went to the office and asked them why. And they said they didn’t have to give a reason,” she said.
Johnson-Dinish said they ran into conflicts with management early on, when they asked her to pull up the plants. She said she also complained about people parking in her designated spot, and about trash around the property.
“They thought we were trouble,” said Johnson-Dinish. But she said she didn’t think the problems were in any violation of their lease.
They soon moved to a motel.
“It was the worst experience I’d ever been through except for my parents dying,” she said.
Brenda Fincher, a Kent councilmember, said she has been gathering information and listening to people’s stories to see if she and another councilmember would like to introduce protections similar to those in Seattle.
“The problem is not that we want to tell people how to manage their property. You know, everybody has the right to do what’s best for them and their families. But we do want to be fair, and we do want to make sure that people who have been doing the right thing, that they have a chance,” Fincher said.
Another tenant, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation from her landlord, said she found out she was about to be served the same type of notice at her complex.
She is a senior living in low-income housing, with a section 8 voucher. She said she has lived there for 12 years with no problems, until recently.
She said management accused her of breaking rules by slipping a letter under someone’s door, and for posting flyers that she did not post.
She also had a conflict with them about whether she could garden outside her unit.
When she found out they were going to ask her to leave, she said, “It was going through hell. I might equate it to when I had my mammogram, and you have to wait. And they said something was wrong and they’d have to test it - waiting for those results to come in. My life was totally destroyed and on the line. What was I going to do? Buy a blue tarp and live under a bridge?”
Luckily, she got the help of local representatives to stay in her home.
Councilmember Fincher said she would like any Kent residents experiencing this problem to call her at City Hall.