Landlords, renters clash over Just Cause Eviction proposal

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Local landlords are warning lawmakers about proposed legislation designed to protect renters from eviction. They say a Just Cause Eviction law could make homelessness worse. But renters say it would keep landlords from arbitrarily tossing them out of their homes.

“With Just Cause I see it as being very, very harmful,” said Chris Dobler, co-owner of Dobler Management in Tacoma. She says her family owns 70 apartment complexes and houses about 25,000 people.

Sponsored by Seattle Representative Nicole Macri, the Just Cause Eviction bill would require landlords to explain why a tenant is being evicted, give 120 days’ notice if the unit is being rehabilitated or sold, and offer a new lease when the old one expires. It allows landlords to evict on three days’ notice for unlawful or dangerous activity.

The bill is meant to protect renters like Chris Heer from eviction. She said she got an eviction notice “right in the middle of me having multiple heart procedures, and I just had hand surgery, and 20 days is a joke.”

She said she got no explanation on her eviction notice.

“I have never known why I got this notice: my rent has never, ever been so much as a day late," she said. "If anything I’d be a day or two early.” Asked if she had been involved in any disruptive behavior, she said no.

Heer did not live at one of Dobler’s complexes. Dobler says the flexibility in current law protects her good tenants.

“If Just Cause were to be passed, all of those residents would be suffering with that kind of disruptive and dangerous behavior from one resident, while we work to get that kind of person removed from the housing community.”

And she believes the rules would contribute to homelessness by allowing bad renters more time to damage apartments.

“So Just Cause would essentially cause a shortage of those rentals for maybe another 30 to 45 days to get those repairs made, " she said.

Heer says she is now homeless herself. “It’s been very frustrating," she said, "because I’ve ended up having to couch-surf, you know, stay with friends.”