Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eviction Issue on City Council Agenda for Dec. 3rd

It appears important to show up at the next City Council meeting, November 3rd.

We just received a note from City Attorney John Watts, as follows:
Mayor Welch requested review of possible City options concerning the notices of termination and planned evictions at Victoria House.
Attached is the agenda bill for the City Council meeting Dec. 3rd. As stated in the agenda bill, draft ordinances that might address the issue are still being prepared.

Thank you and please call with any questions.

John Watts, City Attorney - City of Port Townsend
250 Madison Street, Suite 2, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Telephone: 360/379-5048, Fax: 360/385-4290

The attached agenda bill says:
Based on public comments and concerns raised at a recent Council meeting concerning notices of termination and planned evictions at Victoria House, Mayor Welch requested review of possible City options. The City currently has no regulation affecting the situation. Possible City options are set forth. (In addition to anything the City might do, there may be private legal options, for example, based on express or implied contract or representations that a resident would not be evicted except for certain causes, and/or based on equal protection or discrimination.)

Send letter to operator, and to state agencies and legislators. Send (1) a letter to operator of Victoria House objecting to removal of tenants who rely on Medicaid to assist in covering their costs, and (2) separately, a letter to state agencies and legislators to prohibit/regulate the situation. While RCW 70.129.110 provides regulations on discharge and transfer requirements from boarding homes (apparently, Victoria House is a boarding home), it is not clear the regulation prohibits the evictions occurring at Victoria House, particularly if the eviction is based on an inability of the facility to meet the needs of the resident. (A copy of the RCW is attached.)

Enact just cause eviction ordinance. For background, attached is a copy of MRSC staff attorney Paul Sullivan’s comments on such an ordinance, to effect, state landlord tenant law may preempt and prevent any city action. No other city (except Seattle) has a “just cause” eviction ordinance. Further, an ordinance enacted now might not apply to a pending notice of termination of tenancy issued to a Victoria House tenant (but might apply to an eviction, namely, the actual court process required to evict a tenant who does not move in response to a notice to terminate if a tenant). Any ordinance would apply citywide (and not just to Victoria House). For Council consideration, a draft ordinance modeled on the Seattle ordinance will be provided to Council before the Council meeting. (It is suggested any ordinance, if approved, only apply to any apartment or building with 5 or more tenancies, and not to every rental arrangement.)

Enact a business licensing regulation that prohibits terminations or evictions except for cause. For Council consideration, a draft ordinance will be provided to Council before the Council meeting. It is suggested the ordinance, if adopted, would apply to any apartment or building operator with 5 more tenancies, and provide that any violation of an ordinance provision concerning termination or eviction could result in an apartment operator’s business license suspension and/or penalty. For example, if a licensee wrongfully terminated or evicted a tenant (namely, terminated or evicted without just cause), then the City could suspend the licensee’s business license and/or fine the licensee. (Any suspension or fine would require appeal rights, and involve the City in appeal hearings on whether a violation triggering licensee suspension or fine occurred, namely, whether just cause existed to terminate/evict a tenant.) Such an ordinance might be deemed equivalent to a landlord tenant regulation, and therefore might (per MRSC above) be preempted by state law. Review of other Washington cities’ codes failed to find any similar provision.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Bait and Switch: this is this corporation's MO. At first when these folks moved into Victoria House, they were told they could "age in place." That's pretty clear to mean that they could stay where they were until death.
Moving them to another facility, away from Port Townsend could be such a shock that for some could cause a life ending event.
Why not let these residents "age in place," or would the few dollars spent here panic stock holders in their huge Mac-mansions?
Eviction, that's a horrid thought to contemplate during the holiday season.
The solution as seen by this cold corporation is to shift these elders around like so much baggage. But these precious elders are human beings, not suit cases or trunks.
The solution is to let these folks "age in place," and allow them to live and die in peace in the arms of their families and friends.
Merry Christmas, and peace on earth toward men of good will.
Wendy Stevens,RN,BSN