Submitted by Clark County
Concerned that a large influx of residential evictions may hit communities and courts after state and federal moratoria on evictions are lifted, Clark County has joined several other counties in adopting an Eviction Resolution Program (ERP) that requires problem-solving steps before the cases come to court.
Clark County Superior Court is one of six pilot counties which experience the majority of the state’s eviction cases – Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, and Thurston counties.
The goal of the program is to bring all parties together with trained Eviction Resolution Specialists and rent assistance program staff to promptly explore solutions, including access to state and local rent assistance and achievable payment plans that will help tenants retain their housing and divert many situations from the legal eviction process.
In Clark County, unlawful detainer cases based on nonpayment of rent will be diverted to alternative dispute resolution processes with the assistance of an impartial Eviction Resolution Specialist trained and provided by Mediation Clark County while ensuring tenants have access to community resources, including attorney representation through Clark County Volunteer Lawyers/Housing Justice Project, to reach a solution that stabilizes households through relationship building and pragmatic, realistic negotiation.
The federal and Washington State moratoria on evictions are set to expire Dec. 31, 2020. Funding from the federal CARES Act will be used to establish the pilot ERP’s. These programs will operate in accordance with standing orders issued by each participating superior court.
The Supreme Court issued an order on Sept. 9, 2020, authorizing establishment of ERP’s in all superior courts. The order gives judicial officers the authority to require participation in the program before eviction cases can proceed through the court process. Though state and federal eviction moratoria have been extended through the end of the year, the court hopes and expects that many landlords and tenants will join in the resolution programs early to take advantage of the free help and get a head start on problem solving.
Landlords and tenants can find information on the ERP programs, along with links to programs in pilot counties, on a web site dedicated to the program at: www.courts.wa.gov/EvictionResolutionProgram
In legal terminology, eviction cases are called “unlawful detainer” cases.
“From experience, I can tell you that nobody really wins in an eviction situation,” said Superior Court Judge David E. Gregerson “We hope our court’s decision to participate in this project will result in net benefit to both tenants and landlords, to minimize homelessness and housing instability, and to tamp down one more avenue for the spread of COVID-19.”