A proposed Seattle Metropolis Council invoice might cap lease late fee charges at $10 monthly, with the hope of serving to tenants who fall behind on lease keep away from greater balances.
Whereas renters within the metropolis have been shielded from late charges and every other charges related to non-payment all through the pandemic, that safety will expire this October, a yr after the town ended its civil emergency.
To forestall substantial late charges in he future, a invoice sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant would cap late charges for lease at a flat fee of $10 monthly, bringing Seattle in step with close by Burien and Auburn, who’ve the identical most charge. A proposed modification would additionally prohibit notification charges, that are charges imposed on prime of late charge or different notices from landlords for the act of notifying tenants.
“No one has the correct to take advantage of renters and should you’re out there to take advantage of renters, they need to have the correct to ush again,” Sawant mentioned through the first, prolonged committee dialogue of the invoice on Friday.
About 30 members of the general public, largely renters supporting the change, spoke on the assembly.
Katie Wilson, a Capitol Hill renter and common secretary of the Transit Riders Union mentioned her group supported Sawant’s efforts to curtail the “growing drawback of landlords simply nickel and diming tenants at each flip.”
A number of landlords referred to as into the assembly to oppose the cap, primarily arguing that greater late funds are a mandatory incentive to get tenants to pay lease and noting that, in some instances, small landlords could also be unable to pay their mortgages on time and face their very own late charges.
Others mentioned that tenants ought to negotiate with their housing suppliers to pay decrease charges if they’re experiencing respectable financial disaster.
“I can rely on one hand the variety of instances I’ve really collected late charges over my 50 plus years, as a result of when a renter has bother, they contact me and we work collectively on a win win plan that usually waives the late charges altogether,” landlord Gordon Haggerty, mentioned.
Sawant mentioned that the laws would cowl all tenants as an alternative of leaving equity and leniency to the discretion of the owner.
“The entire level is to have legal guidelines that defend tenants, not having to depend on the empathy of this or that landlord,” Sawant mentioned.
Another elements of Western Washington have greater however nonetheless capped late charges like Kenmore, the place a 2022 legislation caps late charges at 1.5% the month-to-month value of lease. A statewide $75 late charge cap proposed this yr died within the legislature final month.
Sawant mentioned the $10 cap would maintain the charges small and constant for tenants.
Council president and committee member Debora Juarez didn’t oppose the intent of the coverage, however questioned why a flat $10 cap as an alternative of a proportion cap or greater greenback determine, to assist landlords “make themselves complete” in the event that they incur bills associated to a tenant being late.
“Whether or not that’s a respectable argument or not, I feel that’s nonetheless one thing that we now have to debate,” Juarez mentioned.
Council workers additionally famous that enforcement can be troublesome for the already overburdened metropolis Division of Building and Inspections, which has taken on enforcement of a number of new renter protections in recent times and helps present steering as pandemic-era eviction protections go away.
The committee is about to vote on the invoice throughout its subsequent assembly on April 7. If accredited by committee, it will then go to full council for a vote.