Washington small businesses are under attack in the Legislature this year.
Senate Bill 5600 is an example. The bill does several things designed to protect tenants, but what it really does is raise rents and make it ridiculously expensive for a landlord to evict a tenant who won’t pay. An amended SB 5600 recently passed the House (with all of the Republicans and a few Democrats voting no) and is back in the senate awaiting action.
The measure is being touted as a partial solution to our state’s very real homeless problem. Their logic? If we can prevent people from being kicked out of their homes, we can prevent homelessness. And if “rich” landlords get hurt in the process? Oh, well.
The way things are now, landlords are required to give past-due tenants a notice that they have three days to pay the rent — and any agreed-upon late fees and legal expenses — or they will be evicted. If SB 5600 becomes law, tenants will have 14 days, not three, to pay their past-due rent and they cannot be evicted for any unpaid late fees or expenses. The landlords can sue the tenants for the non-rent money they’re owed, but they can’t evict them because of it.
This is a really, really bad bill because it ignores a financial reality. Landlords will, eventually, raise rents to cover these uncollectable bills. And that, undeniably, will add to the homeless problem, not abate it.
This measure, once again, illustrates the difference between the way Seattle-area legislators and the rest of us look at problems. Most of the rental property in King County is controlled by large companies who can better absorb the bill’s costs. Yakima County landlords, on the other hand, are mostly mom-and-pop operations with paper-slim profit margins.
The sad fact about all of this is that homelessness is largely caused by drug abuse and/or mental illness. Well-intentioned, but misguided, legislation like SB 5600 does more harm than good and will do virtually nothing to help the homeless. Hopefully, it dies in the senate.