Primary Benefits to Enacting Just Cause
· Meaningful enforcement of Fair Housing laws
· Healthier & Safe Homes.
· Homelessness Prevention.
· Sustainable future for families in Tacoma
Unlike tenants in more than 25 other jurisdictions, residential tenants in the City of Tacoma currently do not benefit from the protection of a “just cause” eviction ordinance. This leaves us open to unfair treatment or retaliation, unhealthy or unsafe living conditions, discrimination, and in some cases homelessness. Current state law only requires a landlord to terminate a tenancy in writing, with only 20-days’ notice to move. Tenants who are served with a 20 day notice to vacate may not find another home. This instability is damaging to the health of our community.A Just Cause Eviction Ordinance ending no cause evictions would still permit landlords to evict tenants who fail to pay rent or violate their lease and would clearly define for both landlords and tenants about what other “causes” are allowable to evict. In other words, it would create no changes for good landlords. As a public policy tool Just Cause promotes fair housing practices, improves health and safety by protecting tenants who seek building improvements, and prevents homelessness by limiting arbitrary terminations.
Many cities across the nation have implemented just cause ordinances, and have a proven track record of working for both landlords and tenants. For example; Los Angeles, West Hollywood, New Jersey, Santa Monica, Washington D.C., East Palo Alto, and Seattle have all implemented this law. Seattle is the only city in Washington State to currently have enacted Just Cause, which has protected renters for over 30 years.
Model Just Cause Eviction Ordinance for the City of Tacoma
Just Cause does not mean that a landlord cannot terminate rental agreement or evict a tenant. Remedies that are already currently available to landlords to evict tenants for failure to pay rent or failure to comply are not affected by a Just Cause Eviction ordinance. It will create clarity for both landlords and tenants on what grounds can lead to an eviction. A model ordinance for Tacoma would include the following eleven just causes for terminating a tenancy:
A. The tenant fails to comply with a three day notice to pay rent or vacate; a ten day notice to comply or vacate, or a three day notice to vacate for waste, nuisance, drug activity, or unlawful business.
B. The tenant habitually fails to pay rent when due which causes the owner to notify the tenant in writing of late rent five or more times in a 6 month period.
C. The tenant fails to comply with a ten day notice to comply or vacate that requires compliance with a material term of a rental agreement or requires compliance with the landlord-tenant act.
D. The tenant habitually fails to comply with the material terms of the rental agreement which causes the owner to serve a ten day notice to comply or vacate four or more times in a 12 month period.
E. The owner seeks possession and gives the tenant 90 days written notice to vacate so that the owner or a member of their immediate family may occupy the unit.
F. The tenant’s occupancy is conditioned on employment on the property and the employment relationship is terminated.
G. The owner seeks to do substantial rehabilitation in the building that requires at least one permit from the City.
H. The owner elects to demolish the building or convert it to a cooperative, or a condominium that requires a permit from the City.
I. The owner seeks to reduce the number of individuals residing in a dwelling unit to comply with the maximum limit of individuals allowed to occupy one dwelling unit.
J. An emergency order requiring that the housing unit be vacated and closed has been issued and the emergency conditions identified in the order have not been corrected.
K. The owner seeks to discontinue sharing with a tenant of the owner’s own housing unit, and gives 90-days’ notice to each affected tenant.
Just Cause eviction protections can be enforced either as a legal defense the tenant can raise in court, or by having a city agency enforce the law.
Most tenants cannot afford an attorney and are therefore at a disadvantage if they have to raise a defense in court themselves. Many tenants will not be aware they even have the right to just cause if they go to court.
A city agency, such as Code Enforcement, that enforces the law is far more effective. Tenants will be able to submit notices to the department that would receive complaints for Just Cause violations, and enable them to invalidate the notice and notify the landlord. This will reduce the court caseload as improper evictions would not be allowed to go forward.