What changes to the Residential Landlord Tenant Act impact court consideration and processes?

2019 legislation, SB 5600, includes the following changes to the Residential Landlord Tenant Act. 

Fees:  Late fees, if allowable, are limited to $75. A tenant must pay an additional $50 in late fees for each prior reinstatement of tenancy that occurred within the previous 12-month period.  Reasonable attorney fees may be awarded a landlord when a judgment restoring possession of property is entered, provided that the judgment is not entered by default, or the total amount of rent awarded is equal to or less than two months' rent or $1,200, whichever is greater. 

Stay:  Execution of the judgment shall not occur until the expiration of five court days after entry.  If a motion to stay a writ of restitution is filed, attorney fees may be awarded to the landlord if the tenant is permitted to be reinstated.  

Prior to execution of a writ of restitution, the court may stay the writ upon good cause and on terms that the court deems fair and just for both parties.  In considering the stay, the court shall consider evidence of the following factors:
  1. The tenant's willful or intentional default or failure to pay rent;
  2. Payment history of the tenant;
  3. Ability of tenant to timely pay judgment;
  4. Whether nonpayment was caused by exigent circumstances beyond tenant's control and are not likely to recur;
  5. If tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the lease; 
  6. Hardship on the tenant if evicted; and
  7. Conduct related to other notices within the last six months.  

The tenant has the burden of proof to be granted relief from forfeiture.  The court may grant a stay of the writ of restitution for no more than 90 days from the date of the order and establish a payment plan requiring payment within that time.  Additional provisions related to the stay, payment plan requirements, default notice, and execution of the writ upon default of the payment plan are set out in the statute. The court must stay the writ of restitution to ensure compliance by a tenant who seeks to satisfy the repayment conditions by relying on emergency rental assistance from a government or nonprofit entity. The tenant must provide an offer of proof of such reliance on emergency rental assistance.

A tenant who has been served with three or more notices to pay or vacate within 12 months prior to the current notice is not eligible for relief through the exercise of judicial discretion.  

Landlord Mitigation Program:  A tenant who is low-income, limited resourced, or experiencing hardship allows the court to issue an order that the landlord is eligible to apply for reimbursement of an unpaid judgment from the Landlord Mitigation Program.  A tenant must reimburse the Dept. of Commerce for funds paid out to the landlord through the program. 

A landlord may renew an application for writ of restitution and for additional rent owed since entry of the prior judgment if Commerce does not issue payment to the landlord within 30 days from the date of the landlord's application to the Landlord Mitigation Program.  

Clerk Process Impact:  A tenant requesting relief from forfeiture at the time of the show cause hearing, the court must hear the request at that time or as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delay or hardship.  Landlord Mitigation Program reimbursement payments must be deposited into the court registry by the tenant.  A tenant or other party may seek an ex parte order in the unlawful detainer action directing the clerk to disburse the program reimbursement funds to Commerce.  The court case number must be included with the payments issued to Commerce.  If ordered by the court, the clerk must issue payments made by a tenant to Commerce without further court order.  A landlord must file a satisfaction of judgment with the court when the court-ordered judgment is paid in full, whether payment is made directly by the tenant, through reimbursement from the Landlord Mitigation Program, or other person or entity on the tenant's behalf. 

RN id: 2520