16th District lawmakers: We need legislation that provides fairness to property owners and tenants
House Bill 1236 advanced to the Senate over the weekend, despite bipartisan opposition in the House of Representatives. We joined every other Republican and three Democrats voting no.
Unfortunately, this bill will lead to housing shortages and higher rents for tenants. Maintaining an adequate stock of rental housing is a critical component of supporting affordable housing.
The bill requires property owners to renew residential leases after the term has ended. This burden on rental housing providers forces them to go through complicated and expensive legal proceedings with uncertain outcomes to terminate leases in most situations.
For example, under this legislation, even activities like gang involvement, illegal business operation and causing physical damage to the property would no longer be cause to non-renew.
One of the worst, unintended impacts of this policy is that it hurts good tenants and neighbors living nearby. If a property owner has no recourse to remove a tenant who is a bad actor, then both the property owner and anyone living nearby can be subjected to unsafe or disruptive behavior.
Tenants are a valuable and important part of a diverse housing system. The overwhelming majority of tenants are good people who deserve a safe place to live, free of harassment and unsafe conditions. Most tenants pay their rent on time, fulfill their contract agreements and respect other residents. Unfortunately, they are often the ones who suffer the most from neighboring tenant misbehavior.
Imagine if you lived next door to a tenant who was carrying on disruptive behavior right on the other side of your bedroom wall on a recurring basis. You would likely approach your property manager or lessor with the concern. Yet under this bill, one of the most basic tools for addressing this concern, non-renewal, will no longer be available.
Now put yourself in the shoes of a small property owner. Imagine a scenario where you own a small duplex that you rely on as a source of income. You might receive complaints from neighbors about disruptive behavior at your property, but you'd be required to renew your tenant's lease, indefinitely. This is not reasonable or respectful of your neighbors.
The financial hardship, the hassle and loss of control of property will inevitably lead to housing providers leaving the market. This will only exacerbate the housing shortage we are currently facing.
We believe there are better solutions that involve expansion of available rental stock and an environment that stimulates affordable construction and property ownership.
As posted in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin