Olympia resident raises concerns about rent increases


An Olympia resident aired concerns about preemptive rent increases in the city, alleging that her landlord appeared to circumvent the new rental protection laws.

During the public comment segment at the Olympia City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 21, a resident who identified herself as "Cindy" claimed that her landlord had sent out lease renewal notices with $150 per month rent increases before the implementation of the regulations. She believed this was done to "circumvent the laws coming into effect today."

The resident was referring to the amendment of OMC 5.82 related to additional rental housing policies. The additional elements would include relocation assistance thresholds, lease-breaking timelines, family definition for rental registry exemption, and licensing and inspection requirements - to strengthen tenant rights and assistance programs. 

On April 16, the city council adopted, on the second and final reading, rental protection regulations. City Attorney Mark Barber had previously explained that the regulations would take effect 30 days after passage and publication of the law, which meant the protections were set to go into place this month. 

The resident expressed uncertainty about whether the language and clarifications in the newly passed rental protection regulations could be revisited, given that issues with landlords preemptively raising rents even before the new rules take effect. 

"We have to remember that these companies, every single year, make record profits. They all come as an association. They all sit together and decide what they want these rent increases to be. They are the ones that set the market rent. That is where we are headed now. It is an issue already," Cindy told the councilmembers. 

Revisiting the tenant protection regulations

Responding to the resident, Councilmember Dani Madrone said the Land Use and Environment Committee plans to revisit tenant protections later in the year. 

She said this would allow the committee to examine the new regulations and identify any areas that need adjustments based on emerging issues like those raised by the resident. 

Madrone encouraged the resident to email her concerns to all council members so the issues could be elevated to city staff currently working on housing matters.

Relocation assistance approved on first reading

On Tuesday, the city council approved on first reading an ordinance amending the Olympia Municipal Code related to required notice for relocation assistance. 

After the passage of OMC amendments related to relocation assistance and additional renter protections on April 16, the city council determined technical changes were needed to align with the intent of enacting the ordinance.

Specifically, the council intends to modify OMC Sections 5.82.030, 5.82.040, and 5.82.050. These amendments would incorporate a notice requirement for landlords raising a tenant's rent by 7% or more over 12 months. Mandating advance notification of substantial rent increases allows residents the opportunity to request relocation assistance as outlined in the existing ordinance. 

During the deliberations on the ordinance in April, Madrone noted a potential flaw in the rental protection policy. She said there was nothing in the policies to prevent landlords from implementing successive smaller rent increases over a short period, such as a 5% increase followed by a 4.9% a few months later, to raise rents more than the threshold without triggering the assistance. 

The ordinance stated that the technical adjustments that introduced the notice requirements for 7% rent increases over 12 months would protect and promote the welfare of the residents. 


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  • Claire

    Increasing regulations on rental properties and small landlords is causing more and more landlords to sell their rentals, thus reducing the number of rental properties. The Olympia Shitty Council is further exasperating the decline in rental options.

    Friday, May 24 Report this

  • Carolyn Byerly

    I'm glad the JOLT continues to cover this issue. The City Council is moving in the right direction with its recent tenant rights laws. This renter's testimony speaks to the issue that those laws address, which is the serious increase in rent and its concequences. There is a strong statistical correlation between rising rents and homelessness -- both locally and nationally. I wish that Claire and others who hold her perspective would give more thought to what renters living on small incomes face when landlords raise their rent, as Cindy's did.

    Friday, May 24 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    Any smart landlord is going to find a way to protect themselves against unforeseen expenses like maintenance and other elements that can impact the cost of keeping a rental property. When these regulations were passed, it was fairly predictable how they would increase the cost of housing going forward. And I highly doubt there's some cabal of landlords that got together and determined everyone's rent increases. That sounds paranoid and insane.

    Tuesday, May 28 Report this

  • Somney

    My landlord gave notice of a big rent increase in October.

    Monday, June 3 Report this