Management at Salmon Run Apartments, a government-subsidized complex in Yelm, is backing off a letter they say wasn’t supposed to be issued to its tenants.
In the letter, management said it would continue to issue 10-day notices for non-compliance with lease agreements, despite a recent order from Gov. Jay Inslee not to do so.
Letters were posted to the doors of all the complex’s residents early Tuesday afternoon. The directive would have gone against the governor’s current 30-day moratorium on evictions due to the financial impacts of the coronavirus and his orders to close down businesses and ask residents to stay at home.
“Rent is due on the 1st. Nothing has changed and we will not be offering extensions,” the letter read. “The governor has put a freeze on issuing 14-day notices for evictions due to non-payment of rent. However, we will be issuing 10-day notices for non-compliance with the lease agreement. It is critical that you pay your rent, in full, and on time.”
On Wednesday, Salmon Run management posted another note saying they wouldn’t issue any 10-day notices to anyone who has lost their income due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, after having received backlash from the community. Management said when you put things in writing it doesn’t necessarily “invoke the proper intent.”
“I would like to personally apologize for any confusion on this issue. These are confusing times and most of the information that is flowing is changing daily,” the second letter read. Management went on to say “we are and always have been willing to work with any individual or family who has issues making his or her rent payment.”
The affordable housing complex is located 10720 Vancil Road, SE. Salmon Run Apartments did not return a phone call requesting comment Wednesday.
In an email to the Nisqually Valley News, Mike Faulk, deputy director of communications with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, said the implications of the first letter appear to violate the governor’s order.
“A lease agreement does not supersede the law,” Faulk wrote. “So, even though a tenant may technically be in violation of a lease, if that violation is due to failure to pay rent, then law — the governor’s order -— protects that tenant from an unlawful detainer action.”
Inslee signed a 30-day moratorium on evictions on March 18.
In it, the governor prohibited serving a notice of unlawful detainer for default on payment of rent, issuing 20-day notices for unlawful detainer unless the landlord files an affidavit of necessity, seeking a writ of restitution due to non-payment or late payment, and having local law enforcement serve or evict tenants due to untimely payment.
Faulk also wrote that while landlords can still issue notices of violation, they cannot legally serve a notice of unlawful detainer and law enforcement cannot facilitate evictions under the current order.
The Nisqually Valley News reached out to two tenants at Salmon Run. Both said they feared retaliation from management and did not want to speak on the record about the issue.
A number of residents that live at the complex have lost their jobs over the last couple weeks, the two said.
Brionna Aho, communications director with the Office of State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said in an email that landlords and property managers may not evade the “letter or spirit” of the governor’s proclamation by finding other ways to evict tenants.
“Doing so is contrary to law and is also irresponsible during this public health emergency, when the state has been clear that we each need to stay in our homes whenever possible,” she wrote.
Readers can find the two letters attached to the bottom of this story.
Update: In an email sent to the Nisqually Valley News on Friday, Ad-West, the realty service that oversees the management of Salmon Run, said it let go the manager who penned the original letter.
"The intent of our letter was to relay this understanding, remind you of your obligation to pay rent, relay information regarding assistance available, and to encourage you to stay in close contact, by email or phone, with your site manager. We will absolutely work with all of you during this time, if you are experiencing hardship," the agency said.