This past Washington State legislative session was expansive! Governor Inslee signed some 500 bills into law; many went into effect this summer. Of 50+ bills impacting the clients Northwest Justice Project serves, I thought a “Top Ten” is worth mentioning regarding notable changes impacting more than just our clients.
No. 10 / Veterans
• SB 5160 modifies qualifying income thresholds for property tax exemption and deferral programs and adjusts disability rating qualification for disabled veteran property tax exemptions to 80 per cent.
No. 9 / Health Case & Public Benefits
• HB 1065 protects patients from surprise billing for out-of-network providers.
• HB 1603 removes the permanent disqualification from TANF based on non-compliance with WorkFirst and removes limitations on persons moving from another state. Time limit extensions are available for homeless recipients.
No. 8 / Employment
• HB 1155 requires uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for healthcare workers.
• HB 1450 creates various restrictions on “non-compete” agreements.
• HB 5258 requires companies employing custodians, security guards, housekeepers, and other workers who often work alone, to adopt sexual harassment policies and provide training.
No. 7 / Family Law
SB 5604 repealed “non-parental custody” and replaced it with “guardianship of a minor.”
• Courts may appoint an attorney for a minor 12 or older with non-indigent parents.
• Court must appoint an attorney for the parent of a minor if the parent is indigent and one of three other factors are found.
• The minor or other persons interested in the minor’s welfare may petition to terminate the guardianship with notice to the minor, guardian and parent(s).
No. 6 / Native American
• SB 5079 permits Native Americans living on reservations to register to vote on line with a tribal identification card and tribal building address.
No. 5 / Consumer Rights
• HB 1066 ends “gutter service” by prohibiting debt buyers and collection agencies from serving unfiled lawsuits against consumers. This eliminates the sketchy practice of entering default judgments after serving unfiled lawsuits on unsophisticated consumers.
• HB 1730 prohibits reviving expired debts, i.e., past the statute of limitations period, if someone, not realizing this has occurred, makes a partial payment on a “zombie debt.”
• HB 5610 increases small claims from $5,000 to $10,000.
No. 4 / Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault
• HB 1016 requires hospitals who do not provide sexual assault evidence kit collection, or lacks providers, to notify the patient/victim within two hours of arrival. This has been an issue because critical physical evidence of assaults were lost, destroyed, not collected properly, or just not collected. Hospitals are required to inform the patient s/he may file a complaint with the Department of Health if they were not notified within the two hours. By July 1, 2020, hospitals must have a plan to assist patients/victims in obtaining these services at another facility.
• HB 1149 removes the requirement a sexual assault protection order petitioner prove reasonable fear of future acts. The petitioner need only allege and prove the sexual assault occurred.
No. 3 / Youth Law
• In a three-year phase out process, SB 5290 ends the practice of incarcerating youth for “status offenses,” which are non-criminal cases, such as truancy, youth at risk, dependency, etc.
No. 2 / Re-Entry—New Hope Act HB 1041
• Removes ban on vacating multiple misdemeanors (defendants used to only be able to vacate one).
• Adds certain felonies to list of convictions eligible to be vacated.
• Recalculates waiting period required for vacating convictions from the date of completion of non-financial requirements of sentence.
• Codifies State v. Hubbard making a felony Certificate and Order of Discharge effective as of date of completing judgment and sentence.
No. 1 / Housing—MANY new & detailed changes, these are just a few …
Manufactured Home Landlord/Tenant Act / HB 1582
• Adds 30-day notice of new or amended rule, with 90-day grace-period.
• If rental agreement term is less than two-year term, no rent increase permitted during the term.
• If rental agreement term is at least two-year term, no more than annual rent increase permitted during the term.
• Park owner may not prohibit tenants holding meetings with tenant advocates.
• Changes five-day to 14-day pay or vacate notice.
• Changes 15-day to 20-day comply or vacate notice.
• Park closure requirements modified.
Residential Landlord Tenant Act
• HB 1440 rent increase notice changed from 30 to 60 days.
• HB 1462 requires 120-day notice for change in use or demolition—up to treble damages for failure to comply.
SB 5600 / Eviction Reform
• Changes three-day to 14-day pay or vacate.
• Defines “rent” as recurring and periodic charges. This does NOT include late fees, damages, deposits, legal costs or other fees. Payments received MUST be applied FIRST to rent BEFORE other fees or costs.
• Prohibits eviction for non-rent charges unless pursuant to RCW 59.18.410.
• Increases discretion for judges to consider additional factors to help tenants remain housed.
• Expands Department of Commerce Landlord Mitigation Program to cover unpaid judgment for tenant in an unlawful detainer (eviction) case (restrictions/requirements may apply).
To find out if you are eligible for Northwest Justice Project services, please feel free to contact our Aberdeen office at (360) 533-2282 or toll free (866) 402-5293. No walk-ins, please. Depending on our available resources and the type of case you are calling about, we may need to direct you to our toll-free intake and referral hotline, commonly known as “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral), which is staffed by Northwest Justice Project attorneys who can provide information, advice and brief services.
CLEAR 1-888-201-1014, Mondays through Fridays, 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. If you are a senior, 60 and over, please call 1-888-387-7111; you may be eligible regardless of income. Language interpreters are available. You can also complete an application for services at nwjustice.org/get-legal-help. Be sure to also check out our law library at: www.washingtonlawhelp.org.