King County backlog means homeless homeowner must wait 5 months to evict deadbeat tenant

SEATTLE — Jason Roth is a homeless homeowner. He has been living in his van while his tenant, Kareem Hunter is months behind on rent, and was illegally listing the home as a short-term rental on Airbnb. This created massive utility bills, which will also fall onto the landlord. Monday the two faced off in court, and our Jesse Jones was there.

Kareem Hunter has only paid Jason Roth 1k of the 30k he owes in back rent - since March when he moved in.

Roth said, he just wants his house back, “I’m sick of sleeping in my van and on couches. I just want to be back in my house.”

Hoping for help from King County, Jason was assigned today’s court date by the Commissioner on August 16. He has been patiently staying in his van, waiting for months for King County to evict Hunter. According to the Commissioner, King County has a backlog of 600 eviction cases.

But Friday Hunter got a free lawyer through the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project. While Jason, as the landlord, must pay for his legal expenses out of pocket. And since this is his first hearing, a continuance is customary.

As a result, Jason’s own nightmare housing situation continues. King County Commissioner Mark Hillman set the trial for the next available date, March 12, 2024. Meaning Jason will be living in his van for another five months.

“There’s so many things in place for the city to get people housing in the winter, but I am a homeowner who’s not going to have that, " said Roth.

According to Hunter, he said he had permission to run an Airbnb - Jason said only if he paid his rent and stuck to the lease.

Hunter said there’s more information that will be revealed, “once all the facts come out, you’ll see that.”

For now, Jason Roth continues to wait for access to his property.

“The court hearing is past the date of the end of the lease, and he’ll be in there past the release date. It’s just crazy,” he said.

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