Foreclosures are starting to pick up around Washington. I noticed last Friday morning at the Thurston County Court House when the foreclosure sales occur. For the last few months the group of buyers has grown in proportion to the number of houses up for sale.
They stand outside under the awning and conduct the sales right there in the open air, auction style. It seems obscene to me to have such a public and irreverent sale of someone’s home. But to be fair, there isn’t a room to spare in the courthouse and anyway, in the winter its not exactly comfortable.
I see this group gathering every Friday on my way to help out with the Housing Justice Project. Thurston County Volunteer Legal Services organizes attorneys who help people defend against evictions. We have seen an increase in circumstances where tenants are being evicted because the landlord defaulted on the mortgage and the house has been foreclosed upon. This is the case for approximately 40% of all foreclosures in Washington State. There are two laws which are important for renters to know about in these situations.
First, at the federal level, the Protecting Tenants Foreclosure Act of 2009 says that a tenant must have 90 days written notice before they can be evicted. If the tenant has a lease they must be allowed to occupy the property until the end of the lease unless the purchaser intends to live in the home. If the purchaser intends to live in the home then they must still give the tenant 90 days to move out before they can begin eviction proceedings. Under this law the tenant must continue to pay rent to the new landlord.
Second, the Washington State Legislature passed a law this year which provides protections for tenants living in foreclosed homes. S.B. 5810, effective July 26, 2009, requires that the tenant must have 60 days notice before the landlord can evict. The beneficial part of this law is that the tenant is not required to pay rent, the idea being that the tenant is not likely to receive their deposit back from the old landlord.
Remember, S.B. 5810 is effective on July 26, 2009 so don’t stop paying rent if you are living in a foreclosed home and have received notice of a pending foreclosure. If you are in this situation contact an attorney for legal advice or if you cannot afford an attorney contact CLEAR for a referral to legal services.
The pertinent part of S.B. 5810 reads:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. A new section is added to chapter 61.24 RCW
to read as follows:
If the trustee elects to foreclose the interest of any occupant of tenant-occupied property, upon posting a notice of trustee’s sale under RCW 61.24.040, the trustee or its authorized agent shall post in the manner required under RCW 61.24.040(1)(e) and shall mail at the same time in an envelope addressed to the “Resident of property subject to foreclosure sale” the following notice: “The foreclosure process has begun on this property, which may affect your right to continue to live in this property. Ninety days or more after the date of this notice, this property may be sold at p. 7 ESB 5810.SL foreclosure. If you are renting this property, the new property owner may either give you a new rental agreement or provide you with a sixty- day notice to vacate the property. You may wish to contact a lawyer or your local legal aid or housing counseling agency to discuss any rights that you may have.”