Seattle Squatters Smug As County Swamped With 'Enormous Backlog' Of Eviction Cases

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, May 30, 2024 - 03:20 AM

Washington's King County, which includes Seattle, is drowning in a significant backlog of eviction cases, leaving thousands of landlords and tenants in limbo for more than six months in some cases.

$2MM Bellevue home in which a squatter refuses to leave

Prior to the pandemic, evictions took 6-7 weeks if a tenant needed the boot. Now, an "unlawful detainer" eviction case in Seattle or surrounding areas won't be heard until 2025.

"There's a pretty enormous backlog," said Edmund Witter from the King County Bar’s Pro Bono Services, Fox13 reports. "If you're a landlord trying to evict someone, it could take months to get a hearing date. That's the big issue."

According to King County Councilman Regan Dunn, the last year has been particularly bad - with an estimated 2,200 to 6,500 unresolved cases, and roughly 600 new eviction requests each month.

"Why we're seeing a lot of evictions right now is that there was a decent safety net over the last couple of years due to COVID," said Witter - who added that his office is overloaded and has a list of 1,500 renters who need representation.

"We see tenants with $2,000 to $3,000 rent increases," Witter said. "The cost of living is too high, and people cannot afford housing. They're getting crushed underneath it, and that's why we're seeing record numbers of evictions."

Meanwhile, judges told Fox13 that the expiration of pandemic-era eviction moratoriums and the depletion of federal aid created a perfect storm.

According to Councilman Dunn, people are exploiting the situation.

"There are serial squatters who know the rules and don't care," he said. "They've found ways to stay in their units longer because of new legal protections."

It's not just people at the margin... In March, a squatter made headlines for refusing to move out of a $2 million house in upscale Bellevue, despite a household income of $408,000 per year as a medical consultant. The landlord claims the renter, Sang Kim, owes him around $80,000 in legal filings as well.

Landlords are fed up and have organized outside the home.

Via @choeshow

Dunn has proposed spending $1.3 million to increase the number of court staff in order to speed up the process.

"We can't do any of that if there aren't enough bodies to process these cases," he said.

Witter, the squatter attorney, disagrees, saying of Dunn's plan; "This does not address the actual issue of why people are being evicted in record numbers. He's just saying we need to speed up making people homeless faster."