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Spokane to consider requiring up to six months notice before landlords hike rent

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(The Center Square) – The City of Spokane may soon require landlords to give tenants at least four months’ notice before raising the price of rent under an ordinance the City Council will vote on April 29.

The ordinance takes a step further than the state legislature’s 60-day standard by requiring landlords to provide tenants with no less than a 120-day notice when raising rent by 3% or less. That minimum increases to a 180-day notice if the hike exceeds 3%.

However, according to the ordinance, tenants in subsidized housing only require a 30-day notice before the rent is increased, as per state law.

Councilmember Paul Dillon submitted paperwork for the measure earlier this month, citing tenants’ need for additional time when finding a new place to live after being priced out.

As rent increases and vacancies remain low, more people fall victim to Spokane’s housing crisis. According to the ordinance, more than 21,000 households, which account for 90% of Spokane’s renters, spent more than 30% of their income on rent in 2022.

If approved and successful, the measure could act as the city’s first defense in addressing increased homelessness and “increase housing stability for low-income renters in the City of Spokane,” according to the ordinance.

Terri Anderson, interim executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, urged the city council to adopt the ordinance during Monday night’s weekly meeting.

“Rent increases drive up homelessness in Spokane,” Anderson said. “Sixty days is not enough time when tenants receive huge rent increases.”

Spokane’s renters are disproportionately black, she said, so it’s communities of color that bear the most weight as rent continues to climb across the city.

Anderson called on the city to enact laws that would help secure affordable housing for renters, just as the federal government did in the past with the 30-year mortgage for homeowners.

“Tenants will move when they cannot afford the increase,” she said. “Even when there is nowhere to move to.”

Steve Corker, president of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest, said the Legislature had an opportunity to act on numerous bills this past session but chose not to extend or modify its current 60-day notice period for increasing rent.

“Why did they do that?” Corker asked rhetorically. “Because they felt that ordinances such as this had a negative impact on the availability of low-income housing.”

He cited a study by the University of Washington that suggested that “large corporations are replacing “mom and pop” landlords.

“That’s not the case in Spokane,” Corker said.

The Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest represents around 500 members who control 1,200 homes, he said. Still, six members wrote letters during a recent renewal period saying they had to sell their rental properties because of how tight money is.

The private sector is being driven out of low-income housing, according to Corker, with big investors buying up properties, doing remodels the previous owner could not afford, and then raising the rent hundreds of dollars.

“The majority of our small landlords provide homes to families, and families need homes,” he said. “A one or two-bedroom apartment is not what families need in this town.”