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Can my landlord still demand rent from me if I’m forced to close?

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(State) UPDATED: On April 16, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a new proclamation expanding the moratorium on evictions to include some commercial tenants and extending the order through June 4, 2020. Read more here.

The King County Sheriffs Office will not be serving eviction notice to commercial leaseholders because of Jenny Durkan’s moratorium.

The official social distancing measures that have been put in place have shuttered many businesses and have left thousands of people unemployed. This has resulted in several secondary concerns that are top of mind for commercial business owners and employees.

One concern that is top of mind is the ability to pay rent, and what will happen if citizens and business owners are unable to do so. As a result, relief has been created by local and state legislators and has been announced in the last few days.

Seattle: On March 17, 2020, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan declared a moratorium on small business tenant evictions.

At the time of writing this order lasts for 60 days, however it can be extended to the end of the city’s emergency as determined by the mayor and city council. The order defines a small business as any operation with 50 ore fewer employees, including sole proprietorships. The order includes evictions associated with default of rent payments and lease expiration.

“Effective immediately, a moratorium on small business and nonprofit tenant evictions for non-payment of rent or due to the expiration of the lease’s term are hereby ordered until the earlier of the termination of the civil emergency declared in the Proclamation of Civil Emergency dated March 3, 2020, or 60 days from the effective date of this Emergency Order. The decision to extend the moratorium shall be evaluated and determined by the mayor based on public health necessity;”

The official document on commercial evictions can be found here.

In an official statement Durkan said, “For our small businesses and workers: I know you’re hurting. This has been an unprecedented time for our city, and it’s our most vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted.”

Earlier in the week Durkan issued a moratorium on residential evictions to protect the economic concerns of employees as well.

The official document on residential evictions can be found here.

Durkan said, “We have entered an unprecedented era for our city. Too many families are already struggling, and COVID-19 virus has disproportionately affected the communities who can least afford it. As we take steps to slow the spread of the virus across Seattle’s communities, a part of that response is to ensure that families are not displaced and forced into homelessness.”

Washington state: In a press conference on Wednesday March 18, 2020, Gov, Jay Inslee issued a statewide moratorium on evictions of residential tenants for 30 days. This announcement was made in conjunction with a number of other measures designed to help small businesses and displaced employees.

Inslee commented, “These are unprecedented times. We must do everything we can to support the resiliency of Washington workers and employers.” Under Inslee’s order, law enforcement may not enforce eviction orders based solely on non-payment of rent. Inslee’s order did not include a statewide order on commercial tenant evictions; however, it did include flexibility on statewide tax collections and utility payments along with small business grants.