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Seattle Extends Eviction Moratorium to Commercial Real Estate

Order Applies to Businesses With 50 Employees Or Less, Nonprofit Groups

By Clare Kennedy CoStar NewsMarch 18, 2020 | 02:19 P.M.

Just before the end of the business day on Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an order that temporarily blocks the eviction of small businesses and nonprofit groups within city limits, effective until the coronavirus pandemic passes.

As the ink dried, the number of confirmed cases in Washington state hit 1,000, the majority of the infections centered in the Seattle metropolitan area, which until recently was the country's most bullish economy. The order is a sequel to an earlier measure enacted over the weekend, which protects Seattle's residential tenants from being ousted from their homes during the crisis. By order of Gov. Jay Inslee, all nonessential businesses have closed, leaving thousands of workers without jobs as long as the illness rages.

Effective immediately, Durkan's latest order temporarily halts evictions of small business and nonprofit tenants in the city of Seattle. As long as it stands, landlords may not take any action on nonpayment of rent or lease expirations. The length of the moratorium will be be at least 60 days, but is ultimately subject to Durkan's discretion. The policy applies to independently owned businesses with 50 employees or less per establishment, state nonprofit groups and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The order further bars landlords from imposing late fees, interest or other charges on tenants. It also contravenes contract or statutory remedies that would allow the removal of a small business or nonprofit tenant from their premises, including termination of the lease or termination of the tenants' right to possession.

In the interim, landlords have been directed to work out a payment plan with tenants to assist in rent relief, through deferred payment of rent, rent discounts or other strategies.The city realized additional measures may be necessary after it rolled out a $1.5 million small business stabilization fund, which was intended to help about 150 establishments, according to Durkan's order. Within the first week 2,760 businesses applied. Seattle is among the hardest hit by coronavirus, which was first identified in mainland China in December. The first U.S. case of the new respiratory illness emerged in the Puget Sound region on Jan. 21, and since then, the number of infected in Washington state has increased at a rapid clip. As of Tuesday afternoon, the state had reported 1,012 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths. Similar measures are cropping up in cities and states around the country as the coronavirus spreads. On Tuesday, the state of California authorized local governments to impose moratoriums on evictions for residential renters, homeowners and commercial tenants.

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