Protecting tenant rights through increasing the length of eviction proceedings is part of eviction-reform legislation, currently in the state House of Representatives.

The House Committee on Civil Rights and Judiciary heard public testimony on Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5600 on March 19.

The bill would extend from three to 14 days the time a tenant has to comply with a notice to pay rent or vacate before unlawful detainer action. This notice means that a tenant must vacate the property or pay the back rent if they do not want eviction proceeds on their record.

The measure also authorizes judicial discretion in unlawful detainer proceedings. Landlords would be allowed, under certain circumstances, to seek payment from the Landlord Mitigation Program Account, which is an account held by the Department of Commerce that tenants payback over time, for an unpaid judgment of over $500.

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue is the prime sponsor of the bill and the chair of the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee. Kuderer testified in support of the bill and noted the continued work being done with stakeholders to perfect the bill.

“It was interesting because what jumped out at us is that right out of the gate the leading cause of homelessness was evictions. Eviction for nonpayment of rent in particular,” Kuderer said.

The change of notification time from 3 to 14 days was the major point of contention throughout the public testimony.

“What the data showed us is that Washington was an outlier at three days and that it was inhumane to give someone a notice and three days later expect them to pack up all their worldly possessions and find another place to live,” Kuderer said.

In a study done by the Housing Stability and Affordability Committee, 26 other states have longer periods of time than Washington’s current 3 days. Some states allow as long as 30 days. Kuderer said she settled on two weeks because it would allow tenants to receive an additional paycheck during that time. The bill represents a “hard-earned compromise” for Kuderer.