Low-Income Tenants To Receive A Right To Counsel In Washington State
On Thursday, April 22nd, Jay Inslee signed into law a right to counsel guaranteeing to low-income residential tenants the right to counsel during the eviction process. Although Seattle, and several other cities, had similar laws already on the books, Washington State has now established itself as the first state to pass such legislation. Washington appears to lead the way, as seven other states currently may be contemplating passing similar laws.
The right to counsel law guarantees access to public attorneys at no cost during the eviction process for tenants who either receive public assistance, or who have incomes at 200% or below the federal poverty line, or approximately $25,760.00 for individuals and $53,000 for a household of four people.
Washington has scheduled its eviction moratorium for residential tenants to expire on June 30th. Although the possibility remains that Washington will extend the moratorium, Jay Inslee has not yet signaled his intention to do so, and some have expressed concern that a large flurry of evictions will take place once that moratorium expires, as over 160,000 households have fallen behind on rent.
The Office of Legal Aid estimates that it will need to hire almost 60 additional contract attorneys to fulfill the requirements of the new law, and it expects that this will cost over $11 million in the program’s initial year.
Nonetheless, Washington has established the right to counsel as one mechanism to address the evictions inevitably coming down the road, and we can expect to see more and more states take similar actions in the coming months as they begin to lift eviction moratoriums.
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