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The Impact of COVID-19 on Evictions in the Pacific Northwest

Posted By USFN, Thursday, July 23, 2020
by Cara J. Richter, Esq.
The Wolf Firm, A Law Corporation
USFN Member (CA, ID, OR, WA)

As early as February, the Pacific Northwest region of the country, including the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, established measures to respond to the growing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Each state implemented its own equivalent of a stay-home/stay-healthy order, with a special carve-out for those business operations providing essential services to the public.   While none of the states has independently banned foreclosures of residential trust deeds, they have each taken steps, in some cases significant ones, to curtail involuntary displacement of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee signed a proclamation whereby he instituted a broad statewide prohibition against evicting occupants of residential dwellings and commercial rental properties.  The prohibition, which is effective until June 4, 2020, applies to landlords, property owners, property managers and law enforcement alike.  It strictly forbids any action, whether actual or by threat, to recover possession of property unless it can be established that there is a significant and immediate risk to the health or safety of others.  The prohibited actions include, but are not limited to, issuing a notice to vacate, seeking or enforcing agreements to vacate, as well as filing an unlawful detainer action.  Indeed, a plain reading of the proclamation would seem to suggest that even negotiating a cash-for-keys agreement could be interpreted as a prohibited activity in Washington.  

Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, took similar steps to curtail involuntary displacement of Oregonians by declaring a state of emergency and signing an executive order imposing a temporary moratorium on both residential and commercial evictions.  Oregon’s eviction moratorium remains in effect until June 30, 2020 unless otherwise extended or terminated by the governor.   Interestingly, the executive order explicitly states that it does not apply to the termination of residential rental agreements for causes other than nonpayment of rent.  This means that a post-foreclosure REO eviction of a former owner-occupant is theoretically permissible in Oregon, as opposed to Washington, since in the post-foreclosure scenario there would no rental agreement to terminate, nor the cause for nonpayment of rent.  

Idaho’s governor, Brad Little, has yet to issue a statewide moratorium on evictions.  On May 4, Idaho’s Supreme Court stepped in and signed an order approving and adopting the Statement of Landlord Regarding Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) Eviction Moratorium (Statement of Landlord). The Statement of Landlord requires the landlord, property manager and/or property owner to declare, under penalty of perjury, that they have complied with the CARES Act eviction moratorium.  Under the terms of the Order, which was amended on May 5, 2020, for any eviction action initiated between May 4, 2020 and July 25, 2020, the Statement of Landlord must be filed in conjunction with the underlying complaint.  The Idaho Supreme Court also authorized statewide use and distribution, through individual court websites, of an Answer to Complaint – CARES Act form.  This specific form, designed for Idaho residents who have been negatively affected by COVID-19, can be filed by an occupant in response to an eviction complaint.   

Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves in the months to come, the states within the Pacific Northwest may establish additional measures to address the crisis.  It is therefore critical, from a compliance and best practice perspective, to consult with local counsel prior to initiating any eviction action.  

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Spring 2020 USFN Report

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