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The “Bridge Proclamation” extending eviction moratorium protections expired at 11:59pm on October 31, 2021. Potential evictions for unpaid rent from March 1, 2020 until the present are now subject to the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP), as enacted in April, 2021 (SB 5160 Section 7, RCW 59.18.630).
Landlords must engage the ERPP process before an eviction for unpaid rent may proceed to court. ERPP begins when a landlord serves a tenant and sends the local dispute resolution center an ERPP Notice along with a 14 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate.
Northwest Mediation Center always recommends landlords and tenants consult an attorney regarding their legal rights and responsibilities.
Detailed information on the 2021 changes impacting landlord-tenant law in Washington State may be found on the Attorney General’s website, https://www.atg.wa.gov/landlord-tenant and Washington Law Help.
What is ERPP?
The Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (ERPP) is the program created by chapter 115, sec. 7, laws of 2021 (also known as ESSB5160 or SB5160). The acronym ERPP is used to distinguish the statutory Eviction Resolution Program pilot from the judicial Eviction Resolution Pilot (ERP) that was authorized by the Supreme Court of Washington on September 9, 2020 and implemented by standing orders in local superior courts in November and December 2020, during the Governor’s eviction moratorium.
How is ERPP triggered for a case in my Dispute Resolution Center (DRC)? When does it begin?
Under Proclamation 21-09, an ERPP engagement begins when a landlord sends to both the tenant and the DRC an Eviction Resolution Program Notice.
ERPP engagement begins when the landlord serves the tenant both the Eviction Resolution Program Notice and a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate. The Attorney General’s landlord-tenant website offers the 14-Day Notice in multiple languages.
Both notices are sent to the local dispute resolution center serving the county in which the property is located.
Under the statute, the 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate is to include this sentence: “Free or low-cost mediation services to assist in nonpayment of rent disputes before any judicial proceedings occur are also available at dispute resolution centers throughout the state. You can find your nearest dispute resolution center at https://www.resolutionwa.org.”
The online version of the 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate statute, RCW 59.18.057, has not been updated to reflect the changes from the 2021 legislative session. In order to view the changes, you will need to view ESSB 5160 (Sec 10). The updated version is expected to become available online in late August or September.
What information must an Eviction Resolution Program Notice contain?
The Notice must contain complete contact information for the tenant, including the property address, phone number and email address. If the landlord does not have complete information, the Notice must indicate that. The Notice must also contain complete contact information for the landlord and the landlord’s lawyer, if any.
What happens next? What is the DRC’s responsibility when it receives an Eviction Resolution Program Notice?
Notice must be Complete
If the Eviction Resolution Program Notice is incomplete, the DRC informs the landlord of the need to fully complete the notice and asks them to send a new notice. No engagement begins until a complete Eviction Resolution Program Notice is received.
When the DRC receives a completed Eviction Resolution Program Notice, the tenant will contact the DRC or the DRC will make three attempts to contact the tenant to offer eviction resolution services to the tenant. Contact attempts will include more than one form of communication (e.g. text, voice and email, or email and two phone calls, email, voice and physical mail, etc.).
The tenant must engage in eviction resolution and/or rental assistance services within 14 days of the date on the Eviction Resolution Program Notice. If the tenant does not respond within the 14 days or refuses to participate in eviction resolution and rental assistance services, the DRC will issue a Certificate to the landlord and the tenant.
Under Proclamation 21-09, issuing a Certificate permits the landlord to serve the tenant a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate and an Eviction Resolution Program Notice.
After the proclamation period expired on October 31, 2021, under the statute, issuing a Certificate permits the landlord to file an Unlawful Detainer (UD, or “eviction”) proceeding in superior court.
Tenant Accepts Eviction Resolution and/or Rental Assistance Services
If the tenant responds to the Eviction Resolution Program Notice, the DRC begins by conducting an intake. This intake may include connecting the tenant with local rental assistance and/or legal services, as the tenant wishes. The DRC will notify the landlord that the tenant has accepted eviction resolution and/or rental assistance services.
Additional facilitated negotiation services, including conciliation, conflict coaching, Meet-and-Confer, and full mediation, are used to support communication and problem solving between the tenant and landlord. At the end of the process, whether the parties reach a resolution or not, the DRC will issue a Certificate and provide copies of all signed agreements and the Certificate to the landlord, tenant and their lawyers, if any.
Must tenants participate in ERPP?
ERPP is a voluntary process. If the tenant responds to the Eviction Resolution Program Notice or to the DRCs outreach and agrees to participate, DRCs will conduct an intake with the details of the client’s circumstances, referring tenants to local legal services and/or rental assistance, as the tenant wishes.
Landlords, tenants and other interested persons and organizations are highly encouraged to meaningfully participate in the eviction resolution process.
In Proclamation 21-09, the governor stated: “Furthermore, because the Legislature answered the call to help thousands of landlords and tenants who have endured great hardship during this pandemic by appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars ... and establishing thorough and thoughtful programs to address the ongoing housing crisis ..., I respectfully ask that local jurisdictions, rental assistance programs, eviction resolution pilot programs, housing advocacy organizations, courts, landlords, and tenants work collaboratively, patiently, and in good faith to enable the Legislature’s remarkable efforts to be effectuated.”
What happens if the tenant or landlord is working with rental assistance directly?
Tenants (and landlords in the case of T-RAP funds) are encouraged to contact rental assistance directly - and the Eviction Resolution Program Notice includes contact information for rental assistance. When either the tenant or the landlord is working directly with rental assistance, the DRC will record this information in the case file.
What services does the DRC provide under ERPP?
Conciliation: DRC engages in informal communication efforts with the landlord and tenant individually (by email, phone, video, or in-person) to find and present options for qualifying resources to help address the issues. DRC may also make referrals to parties seeking legal assistance or representation.
Conflict Coaching: DRC works with tenant and/or landlord separately to help them explore options and prepare to resolve the issues between them.
Meet and Confer: The DRC will schedule and facilitate a more formal joint session, where both the landlord and tenant, and their attorneys, if any, participate at the same date and time to come together to work out any remaining issues between them. This often involves the parties in separate settings at the same time, such as different offices or conference rooms in an in-person setting, or separate video conference breakout rooms in a virtual setting.
Mediation: If the parties are unsuccessful in resolving their concerns through Meet-and-Confer, and both landlord and tenant agree, DRC will schedule and conduct formal facilitated mediation
What is the DRCs role in helping landlords and tenants access legal resources, if they desire?
Since DRCs are not providers of legal representation, they have no control over Tenant and Landlord access to representation. They can and will take steps to encourage and support tenant and landlord access to representation. DRCs:
will encourage tenants and landlords to seek legal advice;
will refer to and help tenants make contact with legal service providers;
will facilitate participation by represented parties in the dispute resolution process; and
may potentially delay the dispute resolution process to allow tenants and landlords to access representation if time is needed to access legal resources.
Who are “parties” in an ERPP engagement?
The tenant and the landlord are the parties, and their participation is necessary for an agreement to be reached. The tenant and landlord may also have attorneys, but this is not required.
If the landlord authorizes a property manager or other person to represent the landlord, the DRC will confirm that the representative has the express authority to participate in the facilitated negotiation process, including authority to enter into an agreement. If the representative does not have this authority, or is unsure, this must be settled before any facilitated negotiation session proceeds.
If a tenant authorizes another tenant on the lease to represent the tenant, the DRC will confirm that the representative has the express authority to participate in the facilitated negotiation process, including authority to enter into an agreement. If the representative does not have this authority, or is unsure, this must be settled before any facilitated negotiation session proceeds.