Domestic violence, lack of safe housing, and homelessness often go hand-in-hand. These situations can have devastating effects on individuals, children, and their communities. They’ve also grown dramatically worse during the past two years as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown mitigation efforts increased isolation. In an ongoing effort to alleviate some of the barriers domestic violence victims encounter when trying to exit dangerous living situations, the Washington State Legislature recently passed a new bill, HB 1593. This bill amends and expands the protections covering the financial burden placed upon tenants who are escaping domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, and stalking. The bill also recognizes the impact of a sudden lease termination on the property owner. The bill’s provisions attempt to mitigate this financial burden by offering landlords incentives and added security to encourage them to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. This revised bill goes into effect on June 9, 2022. 

Property Owner Coverage

Domestic violence situations can create significant financial burdens on property owners. Not only can their property get damaged during violent encounters, but landlords can also miss out on rental income when tenants suddenly need to move to a safer location. What’s worse, tenants who are victims of domestic violence often end up with blemishes on their rental history. HB 1593 attempts to make these situations easier to manage for landlords and tenants alike. The bill allows housing providers to submit a claim to the Landlord Damage Relief Program for up to $5,000.00 related to property damage. The program releases funds based on availability, so payments are not guaranteed. However, addressing these six points in your application will help your claim:

HB 1593 Key Points

  1. A tenant terminated their rental agreement because of domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking.
    • The tenant must notify their landlord in writing that they are victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking. HB 1593 provides a form for a “qualified 3rd party,” which could include law enforcement, health professionals, court employees, licensed mental health professionals or counselors, clergy, or trained advocates for crime victims/witness protection. These 3rd party individuals can complete the form and verify the tenant faces one of the qualifying situations.
    • The tenant must make the protection order available to the landlord. They must also make the lease termination request within 90 days of the reported act/event that necessitated the protection order. However, tenants are not required to disclose the name of the abuser to the landlord.
  2. The property damage is beyond ordinary wear and tear.
  3. The housing provider has provided a deposit accounting statement to the renter.
  4. The housing provider has returned the entire damage deposit to the renter.
    • HB 1593 prohibits landlords from retaining any portion of the renter’s damage or security deposit after seeking reimbursement from the mitigation program.
  5. The housing provider has agreed not to take action against the renter to recover an unpaid balance.
  6. The tenant is responsible for the rent in the month they quit the premises. However, they are not responsible for any future months, regardless of the previous lease agreement.

Have Your Documents in Order

If you’re preparing to submit a relief fund claim, make sure you have all your required documents in order. 

Documents required for damage or rent loss claims:

  1. A Washington Statewide Vendor Identification Number.
  2. An executed written Rental Agreement between the landlord and the tenant(s).
  3. A Rental Assistance Agreement (or adequate proof of housing assistance).
  4. A completed Move-In Condition Report signed and dated by both Landlord and Tenant(s). This document is not the same as a Rental Assistance Inspection Report.
  5. A tenant ledger showing any unpaid portion of rent and other charges.
  6. Copies of all repair invoices for damages you included in the claim.
  7. Complete the entire claim submission form.

Get Professional Help

There are a number of laws and protections associated with renters who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, and stalking. Navigating them all can quickly become complicated and overwhelming. If you face these situations, it’s critical to seek legal counsel from an attorney familiar with landlord/tenant laws. That way, you can ensure that you’re complying with the laws put in place to protect vulnerable people. Legal counsel can also help you utilize whatever protection are available for housing providers.

HB 1593 is another example of the challenges DIY property managers face. Every time a state legislature implements a new law, landlords must adjust their practices in response. Keeping up with those changes can be a full-time job that many landlords just don’t have time for. If that’s the case, partnering with a professional property manager might be the answer. Organizations like Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew make it our business to stay up-to-date on laws like this. We also work with our own legal counsel to ensure our policies and practices evolve to meet new requirements. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, call or text Darla directly at 503.515.3170. You can also fill out the contact page on our website, and we’ll get right back to you.