By Lucy Boateng, ELAP housing attorney
The King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP) serves King County tenants facing financial hardship and housing instability due to the pandemic. Eligible households that reside in the county can receive up nine months of current and past-due rent (and utilities if they are included in rent) and three months of future rent. If the landlord accepts the terms of the program, any pandemic debt beyond nine months will be waived.
So, what’s the issue?
While this program has provided tremendous relief to many tenants, the funds have been slow to reach renters and landlords. As a result, thousands of households continue to experience increased fear of eviction while they wait for EPRAP funds. Landlords have started issuing eviction notices for non-payment of rent and even filing unlawful detainer actions before tenants’ EPRAP applications are approved.
Tenants need to know that there are protections in place and legal procedures that landlords must follow before an eviction for non-payment of rent can be pursued.
Here’s what all tenants and their advocates should know:
- Before an unlawful detainer action can be filed against a tenant, the landlord must offer the tenant a payment plan and wait for the tenant to respond.
- If the tenant fails to respond or disagrees with the terms of the payment plan, the landlord can serve the tenant with “Pay or Vacate” and Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP) notices. ERPP brings tenants and landlords together to resolve non-payment of rent issues through mediation.
- However, the landlord can pursue the eviction if they are unable to reach an agreement through the program.
Tenants should not feel pressured to leave their home if their landlord has not followed the legal procedures. It is extremely important for tenants awaiting EPRAP payments for arrears (money that’s owed) to remain in their home until all payments have been made.
Current occupancy is one of the eligibility requirements for EPRAP, so any tenants who leave their home before they are approved for rental assistance will become ineligible for the program. Tenants in this situation will be responsible for any rent owed and the landlord could refer them to collections. This can negatively impact tenants’ credit and make it more difficult for them to rent their next home.
Before moving out of their home because of non-payment of rent, tenants can contact ELAP to learn more about their legal rights and options. Call 425-747-7274 (English) or 425-620-2778 (Spanish) or fill out our online intake form.