Extended eviction moratoriums hurt more than they help

By MARK HARMSWORTH  | 
Mar 8, 2021
BLOG

On December 23, 2020 the state issued an extension to March 31 for the COVID-19 statewide eviction moratorium giving renters relief if they were struggling to make their monthly rent payments. The moratorium is currently set to expire unless the state extends the deadline.

While this has given some flexibility for renters and many property owners are willing and able to cover the shortfall in rental payments, in the long term this is not a sustainable situation. Many rental properties are owned by individual families, themselves under financial stress due to the extended lockdown.

A recent opinion article on the Crosscut website proposed extending the eviction moratoriums in both Seattle and statewide and assumes that money will be available in the form of grants or federal assistance to renters to help pay the rent. The opinion article does not address the, now critical, situation for property owners who have one or two properties and are not receiving rent.

For the property owners, the moratorium on evictions has placed their own homes and safety in jeopardy. The lack of rental income has created a situation where they can’t pay the rental property mortgage and their own home mortgages and are being forced to make a hard choice.

Understandably, this is a difficult situation for both the renter and property owners. Many reach agreements with payment plans or reduced rent as it is nearly always in the best interest of the renter and property owner for the renter to stay in the property.

In the situation where a property owner can no longer afford to make mortgage payments and they have exhausted any options with their lender, they may be forced to sell the rental property. In Washington, since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, 109 property owners in Washington have been forced to sell or owner occupy a rental property. Compared to only 7 homes sold by September of last year this number is increasing dramatically and is an indicator that homeowners that are renting properties are running out of options.

It is obvious, landlords are using this moratorium provision only as a last resort and is not being misused systemically. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be abused, but so far, that appears not to be the case.

COVID-19 has made it difficult for renters and property owners to pay the bills. Sometimes the options just run out and hard choices must be made.