In March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation to protect tenants from being evicted during the pandemic. While intending to support individuals who had been temporarily impacted economically by the state of emergency, the proclamation also affected hotels and motels requiring accommodations to be extended to guests who had been on the property for 14 days or more and prohibited removing guests for non-payment. The emergency proclamation has been extended a number of times over the past year, leaving several hotels in difficult situations with hotel guests who refused to pay and were protected under the order.
Senate Bill 5160, which extends and makes changes to the state’s current eviction moratorium, was introduced by lawmakers and is intended to address the effects of the pandemic on a tenant’s ability to pay rent. It set up a process for landlords and tenants after the eviction moratorium proclamation expires. In its original form, the bill would have protected tenants from eviction up to two years after the proclamation expired. Many argued a bill with that intent should not include the lodging industry.
Legislators agreed, to an extent, and the bill was amended to remove hotel guests from the definition of “tenant.” The main takeaway for members is that it specifies that a guest must have been staying for more than 30 days prior to March 1, 2020, for the guest to be considered a tenant eligible for protections. This means that guests who don’t meet these criteria can be asked to leave. We know members may have questions about how to properly ask a guest to leave, and we are working to include more information on this bill, along with that disclosure language, on our website and as part of our end-of-session round-up. The bill is currently awaiting the governor’s signature and includes an emergency clause – making it effective immediately upon signature.