State’s eviction moratorium expires at end of December

VIDEO: Washington's eviction moratorium expires at the end of December

The first day of the month is tough for thousands of people in Washington struggling to pay rent in the COVID-19 crisis.

On Tuesday, a state senate committee heard testimony about Washington’s eviction moratorium, which expires Dec. 31.

That’s also when rental assistance from the federal CARES Act expires.

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Census data shows 171,000 Washington residents are behind on rent, and advocates warn many more people are just a month away from becoming homeless.

“We’re looking, come January 1, at a massive crisis in Washington State,” said Michele Thomas of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

Thomas wants Gov. Jay Inslee to extend the eviction moratorium through March 2021 so the legislature can come up with a rental assistance plan for the next two or three years.

“Rental assistance is a win-win. It keeps the tenant in the home, and it keeps the landlord paid,” Thomas said.

Anngie Zepeda told the senate committee about her family’s struggle to pay rent.

“We got behind on rent because my husband lost his job in March,” Zepeda said. “We never stopped sending money. We sent what we could send.”

Landlords are also facing problems.

Robert Akhtar told legislators six of his 12 tenants owe him a total of $77,000 in back rent, and he can’t pay the taxes, utilities or mortgage.

“This is a substantial amount that is outstanding, and it is almost wrecking our business,” Akhtar said.

The attorney general’s office enforces the eviction moratorium and said it has received more than 5,700 inquiries and complaints since the beginning of April.

The AG’s office said about two thirds of those were from people concerned about losing their housing.

KIRO 7 asked Inslee’s office if the governor will extend the eviction moratorium.

A spokesperson wrote back that no decisions have been made yet.