TACOMA, Wash. - Tacoma councilmembers unanimously voted Tuesday to adopt a resolution looking into landlord-tenant laws after learning residents at the Tiki Apartments are facing evictions.
Mayor Victoria Woodards also announced a special emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss how to help tenants and to investigate alleged housing violations.
On April 5, the Tiki Apartments on South Highland Avenue were purchased by CWD Investments, a Seattle-based company. Within 24 hours, tenants received notices to vacate because the company wants to renovate the complex. Half of the residents were told they need to leave by the end of April while the other half was given until the end of May. The company also offered each unit up to a $900 one-time relocation fee.
Under Washington state law, landlords are only required to give tenants a 20-day notice to vacate when they are renting month-to-month.
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Sarah Howe is legally blind and in a wheelchair. She says $900 and a three-week notice is not enough. She now has six days to find another place to live and urged city councilmembers to find another solution.
"There's nothing available, this is what the city needs to understand," Howe said. "I keep getting the door slammed in my face and every time I hear no, it just crushes my heart that much more."
CWD's attorney addressed city councilmembers and tenants for the first time Tuesday, saying "CWD has offered beyond what they were required by law."
The company's answer brings little relief to residents like Deborah Simmons, who's been living at Tiki for 14 years.
"This is the only thing I can afford," she said. "I personally don't have thousands of dollars in my bank to move."
Roger Valdez with Seattle for Growth said what happened at the Tiki Apartments may become more common in places like Tacoma. Tenants say the building has been run down for years. Housing experts think that leaves developers with few options.
"You see people who are benefiting from years and years of deferred maintenance in lower rent and then it all catches up," he said. "It's an unfortunate situation but we've seen it a lot in Seattle."
Experts said the solution is simple: create more affordable housing. Valdez also thinks what happened at the Tiki Apartments could be avoided if cities keep an eye on below-market housing buildings.
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