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Spokane ordinance requires 4-to-6 month notice before increasing rent

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(The Center Square) – Spokane followed in the footsteps of other Washington cities Monday night when its city council approved an ordinance requiring landlords to give tenants at least 120 days’ notice before increasing rent.

The vote follows Seattle, Tacoma and other cities across the state that have taken that step on behalf of cost-burdened renters. Washington law preempts municipalities from rent control, only requiring landlords to give a 60-day notice before raising rent.

The now-approved ordinance in Spokane will require landlords to provide at least 120 days’ notice before increasing rent by 3% or less and 180 days’ notice for increases over 3%.

Lisa Gibbs, a resident of South Hill, received a letter from her landlord in February. With the price of everything going up, she anticipated a rent increase; however, it wasn’t until she got home and opened the notice that she realized the hike was by 42%.

She said all she could do was sit on the couch and cry.

“Can you imagine getting home and opening your mail,” Gibbs asked, “and having your mortgage payment go up 42%, and you have 60 days to deal with it?”

The last time she hired a moving company, she said it cost thousands of dollars, not to mention the first and last months’ rent, pet fees and any other associated costs. Gibbs said she’s 65, single, and living on Social Security, and now she has to worry about higher rent costs.

Terri Anderson, interim executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, maintains that 60 days is not enough. She said that countless senior citizens live in fear daily, waiting to receive a notice that rent will soon exceed their budget.

“Tenants in [Gibb’s] building are receiving rent increases anywhere from 40 to 60%,” Anderson said, “and this is a tax credit building meant to be affordable.”

Steve Corker, president of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest, said the council bears the responsibility of this housing crisis just as much as the last two conservative mayors, and believes ordinances like this drive out the private sector and only make matters worse.

His priority is keeping people in their homes. Corker said once people become homeless, it costs three to four times as much to support them than before. He believes part of the solution includes keeping the private sector as involved as possible to retain its stake in the market.

Corker said he wants to see action from the Legislature on rental assistance and questioned why state lawmakers failed to do so over the past two years.

“This is my home,” Corker said. “This is where my children live, my grandchildren live, and I don’t want to destroy the quality of life that made me call this my home.”