OLYMPIA – Democratic lawmakers are addressing the growing need for rent stability through a new pair of bills introduced today. Announced at a press briefing this morning, Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) and Rep. Alex Ramel (D-Bellingham) have introduced HB 1388 and HB 1389 to stop excessive rent hikes, give renters stability in their rental increases, and empower the Attorney General to go after unscrupulous landlords who use rent increases as a mechanism to deny tenants of their legal rights.
Rep. Ramel’s HB 1389 stabilizes residential rent increases by tying rental rates to the rate of inflation or 3 percent, whichever is greater, up to a maximum of 7 percent. Under the proposal, if a landlord chooses to forgo a rent increase one year, they can bank that increase for the next year. Landlords with new dwelling units under 10 years old or who offer income-based rental rates under state or federal law are exempt. Those landlords experiencing economic hardship or making improvements, can also seek exemptions from this bill.
“Rapidly rising rents, especially predatory increases, are the driving factors behind the displacement that is destroying our communities. Studies show that for every $100 increase in rent, there is a 9 percent increase in homelessness” said Rep. Ramel. “It is not sustainable to drive families out of their homes or out of our communities. At a time where working families face more economic pressure than ever before, this provides a certain level of stability”.
HB 1388, prime sponsored by Rep. Macri, builds on that stability by addressing predatory practices that allow landlords to charge excessive rent even if it is substantially likely to force a renter family to move and is unjustified by the cost of operations. Excessive rent is defined in the bill as a rate that exceeds 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater, or a maximum increase of 7 percent. The bill also applies the Consumer Protection Act to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act. That enables the Attorney General to investigate predatory practices, and if passed into law, the bill will allow courts to impose civil penalties against bad actors in the rental market. Tenants would also be able to sue landlords who engaged in predatory practices.
“We all need a home that we can rely on to meet our most basic human needs and to feel like we belong in our communities. But excessive rent and fees are forcing renters from their homes, displacing families. This is causing people to move further from their communities and jobs, and for some even become homeless. The recent uptick in rental rates has been used to deny people stability. It’s just plain wrong, and it’s harming our communities,” said Macri. “Washington renters deserve stability and protection from those who would use excessive rent to push people out of their homes or deny them of vital legal protections.”
House Democrats have made housing a top priority this session, from creating a separate Housing Committee to focusing on the issues of supply, stability, and subsidy. Through a comprehensive package of bills, they hope to create more affordable housing, stabilize rental rates, and build more government-subsidized housing to house those most in need.