Council discusses potential rental rights legislation, ponders rights ordinance


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By Jack Mayne

Returning to earlier discussions of ways to prevent landlords indiscrimately evicting low income tenants and failing to provide needed repairs in a timely fashion was the major issue at the Monday (June 18) Burien City Council meeting.

Council also considered the possibility of a “Just Cause Eviction Ordinance” to keep landlords from arbitrarily forcing people out of rental properties, something Mayor Jimmy Matta and others discussed during the recent election and a few times at Council sessions.


Marx proposed ‘just cause’

Councilmember Krystal Marx said she would like to see Burien look into ways “we can have our own just cause ordinance, something Nancy Tosta said she agreed the city should investigate “how we can protect our renters.”

Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak said she is a renter and would like city staff to see what other cities around Burien are doing to protect their renters. “We have a high percentage of renters and we need to educate people and give them tools and … the kind of tools we can apply to our community.”

Mayor Jimmy Matta said there needs to be a place or a way that residents can get help in the city when repairs are not done, especially major ones. He said he wanted to support people who provide housing but also supported the people who are in some housing where repairs are needed but not done.

“I’ve seen a lot of these places where it is just unacceptable and I have heard from residents that it is unacceptable,” and added that there may be ways the city can provide assistance.

Marshall said that a few years back an apartment on Ambaum was so bad they ordered it closed and eventually the landlord was forced to pay renters and the city certain expenditures.

There are city building code violations “that certainly we can do something about,” said Marshall. She said she would continue to research the issue for further discussion by the Council.

Marshall gives overview
City Attorney Marshall, responding to a Council request last February, gave an overview of the legal framework of the rights and how renters can get help with issues. She said the discussion does not address issues of landlord rights “as this issue is outside the scope of Council’s direction.”

She said that one way is an online guide to free legal help for low income people and seniors, www.WashingtonLawHelp.org. Information on this site is available in 26 languages.

“The site provides legal education materials and tools on a number of legal issues, including tenants’ rights,” said Marshall’s report to the Council. “The site also has detailed instructions and forms to help individuals represent themselves in court, as well as information on free legal aid programs in Washington, including basic eligibility and contact information.

Marshall said another help site is www.NorthwestJusticeProject.org or NJP. This site “is a not-for-profit statewide organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income people from 18 offices throughout the state of Washington. An individual needing legal assistance for a landlord-tenant issue may qualify for free representation.” It publishes a handout regarding Renters Rights, and copies of the handout are available in English, Spanish, and Russian and are available at the front counter at Burien City Hall, Marshall said.

Also, Marshall said the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project (www.kcba.org/pbs/HJP.aspx or (206) 267-7090), provides walk-in legal services with priority given to renters facing evictions. Services are available at the King County Courthouse and at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

She told Council that Seattle has its own Just Cause Eviction Ordinance which “prevents landlords from arbitrarily ending a rental agreement.” The City of Seattle also has a Tenant Relocation Assistance program which provides relocation assistance to low income tenants displaced by “demolition, substantial rehabilitation, or other changes in the way the property is used.”

Odds and ends
Senior Planner David Johanson told the Council of Planning Commission hearing examiner findings that approved the rezone request for the Breske and Redpoint properties to business and high density residential, and the Council approved the rezoning that includes the plan to build high density residential facilities on a vote of 4 – 1, with Councilmember Bob Edgar voting no and Councilmember Pedro Olguin absent.

Human Services Commission Chair Brendon Scholtz said the group that was created in 2017 has met eight times and has been cosidering financing ways to help secure affordable housing, prevent violence in families and in the communty and to support physical and mental health along with helping citizens to have the education and job skills necessary for employement.

The Council approved a proclamation proclaiming June 15, 2018 as Airport Service Workers Day in Burien, a measure sponsored by Councilmember Pedro Olguin and accepted by Mauricio Ayon.

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