In the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Seattle landlords find themselves in a situation that is foreign to what they knew only one month ago. In this article, we will briefly cover important information that all Seattle landlords should know about in the wake of coronavirus.
1) Gov. Inslee’s and Mayor Durkan’s Moratoriums on Evictions
On Tuesday, March 17, Governor Inslee signed five bills into law in response to COVID-19; one of these measures is a 30-day statewide moratorium on residential evictions (KIRO 7). Following in suit, Mayor Durkan signed another coronavirus 60-day emergency order prohibiting evictions of small businesses and nonprofits. These are universal bans on eviction; tenants and businesses are allowed to remain in their units, regardless of which violations they may make to their contract with their landlord. Late fees are being prohibited as well. The moratorium, coupled with the high number of layoffs being made, could lead to a situation where landlords are locked into providing housing for tenants who are unwilling or unable to cover the cost of rent.
2) Social Distancing: Strict Warnings Against Open Houses
Despite both the rapid spread of coronavirus and the stock market plunge, home sales have not slowed (Long, The Seattle Times). However, more than 30,000 real estate agents were warned against hosting open houses for the rest of the month, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. In addition, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, a home purchasing coordinator in over 23 Washington counties, disabled features on its online home listing database that normally allows brokers to “input, search, or view… open house information.” Now that Washington has followed in suit of California and New York by issuing a state-wide stay-at-home order, open houses will not be allowed in any capacity.
Recent research from Zillow suggests that any slowdown that occurs in home sales during pandemics does not destabilize prices, and does not decelerate the market recovery period. However, while this may be the case, landlords are still bracing for a long-term economic slowdown (Miller, Daily Journal of Commerce). This is indicated by the fact that major developments in Seattle are not being paused or suspended – as happened 12 years ago with the Great Recession.
As popular retail chains – like Tom Douglass and Ethan Stowell – close, there are concerns about the long-term stability of current retail tenants. If landlords specialize in providing units for commercial clients, then it may do them well to have a conversation with each of their tenants to see if they are in position where they are still able to maintain the cost of rent for their unit.
4) NARPM Action Alert
On March 20, 2020 the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) called on its members to voice support for a package being pushed by members of the House and Senate to provide “direct federal rental assistance to families and individuals who suffer a loss of income”, along with “relief for rental property owners and managers to help ensure the continued viability of their properties and businesses.”
Predicting the long-term effects of coronavirus on Seattle’s real estate scene is a nearly impossible task at this point. At this point in time, it would certainly be in the best interests of landlords to make sure that their streams of income remain secure, and that they will remain secure in the foreseeable future.