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Competing tenant-protection measures up for vote in Tacoma’s November election

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(The Center Square) – Tacoma voters will be deciding on dueling measures that give tenants more protections.

The Tacoma City Council passed the two measures on July 11 and will now be up for a vote on the Nov. 7 ballot in Pierce County. The proposal with the most votes will be enacted into law.

Measure one includes multiple elements of strengthened tenant protections. It would require Tacoma landlords to comply with health and safety laws before raising rent or evicting a tenant; set limits on certain rental fees; require landlords provide two notices to increase rent and offer relocation assistance when the increase is 5% or more; create a defense against certain student evictions, evictions between the months of November and April, and evictions against servicemembers, seniors, families and others with protected status under the measure.

The intention of Initiative 2023-01 is to require landlords to comply with tenant protection laws before raising rent or evicting a tenant, as well as prohibit “unfair or excessive fees.”

The ballot measure was proposed by the campaign, “Tacoma For All.” The group said the regulations in the initiative balance the needs of both landlords and tenants.

“This measure is designed to protect families, promote community, stabilize the rental market, and reduce homelessness,” Tacoma For All said on its campaign website. “Providing housing for Tacoma residents directly impacts quality of life at the most basic level, and therefore requires regulations to ensure that it is equitably undertaken.”

The Tacoma City Council proposed the alternative to Tacoma For All’s proposition: Measure number two, which would repeal and reenact portions of Tacoma’s rental housing code and require landlords to comply with health and safety laws, much like the competing measure.

However, the city council’s proposal would require landlords to have a city license before increasing rent or evicting tenants; set limits on rent late fees and pet deposits; require 120 day notice to raise rent, rather than two notices; add new regulations for shared housing; and standardize screening criteria for tenant income required to qualify for housing, and for reviewing tenant’s criminal history and identification.

Tacoma For All stated in a social media post that it anticipated the Tacoma City Council to send a counter proposal updating the city’s rental housing code to compete against “the more robust tenant protections in our Tenant Bill of Rights.”

“It’s still going to take a truly broad grassroots movement to defeat the combined power of deep-pocketed landlord groups and the political establishment,” the campaign stated.

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