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What If I Can't Pay My Rent or Utilities During COVID-19?

For families or neighbors experiencing a financial crisis during COVID-19, difficult choices may have to be made. Many people right now find themselves in an emergency where they have lost their income and cannot pay rent or utilities. If you are someone you care about finds themselves sitting at the kitchen table struggling to navigate what to do about the rent or utility bills during the impacts of coronavirus, Sweetser Law Office is providing the below information for those in distress about keeping the heat on in their home.

Washington State Utility Bill Assistance Proclamation

Utility companies regulated by Washington State will not cut off your services during the COVID-19 crisis. They may also waive (cancel) late fees and make a payment plan if you cannot pay your bills due to COVID-19.

On March 18, Gov. Inslee called on companies to provide relief for utility customers:

  • The proclamation provides the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission with the extended authority to allow utility companies to use existing energy bill assistance funds to help customers who are out of work or are working significantly reduced hours as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Customers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and need assistance paying their utility bills should reach out directly to their utility companies.

Many utilities in the state have already taken some or all of these steps. This does not mean that you will automatically have your utility bill waived.

In Spokane, Avista Utilities has temporarily suspended all collection activity and disconnects for customers. Modern Electric has applied a $50 COVID-19 assistance credit to active primary residential accounts.

Spending more time at home, especially with children out of school, can increase your energy usage. While weather forecasts vary from region to region, we will likely see an increase in temperature in the coming weeks, which may help. For flexible repayment arrangements, or to discuss energy assistance or other programs available, contact your service provider.

Eviction Moratoriums

In Washington State, a landlord may not serve you with a notice of unlawful detainer and may not go to court to get a writ against you for not paying the rent between now and April 17, 2020. (This may be extended by the Governor in the future).

On March 27, 2020, Congress stopped evictions for not paying rent in many federally funded housing programs. a landlord may not try to evict you if you have not paid the rent in these types of programs:

  • Public housing
  • Section 8 Project-Based Housing
  • Section 8 Vouchers
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit
  • Rural Development
  • HOME funded
  • Section 202 (elderly housing)
  • Section 811 (disability)
  • Houses or apartments with a federal loan guarantee from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHA
  • Other programs funded by federal financial assistance (check your rental agreement)

If eviction proceedings are happening to you anyway, get legal help right away. Call CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014.


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