Submitted by Thurston County Public Health
Are you worried about rental housing and evictions due to the financial impacts of COVID-19? Thurston County has three types of assistance available to support housing stability: Rent Assistance, Eviction Resolution & Mediation Assistance and Legal Assistance. These resources work together to help get rental payments to landlords; to help landlords and tenants reach agreements; and to help tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities. The overall goal is to prevent evictions and keep our community members in their homes.
Rent Assistance is offered at Community Action Council for ages 25 and up and at Community Youth Services for young adults, ages 18-24. Those who need help paying past-due, current or future rent and have been directly or indirectly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can schedule an appointment online at the Community Action Council website or by calling 360.438.1100 press 8, then 2. When you schedule an appointment online, you select the time and date of your appointment and it only takes about five minutes. Phone call volume is very high, so scheduling an appointment online is recommended when possible.
Rent Assistance can cover past-due rent since March 13, 2020 and future rent for up to three months at a time. It can also cover past-due utility bills and some other housing costs, including Internet. Funding for Rent Assistance comes from different local, state and federal sources for COVID-19 relief. This program is in high demand and appointments may only be available four to six weeks out from the time of scheduling. You can help move the process along by being ready for your appointment. Gather copies of your rental agreement or lease, rent payment statements, income or pay verification and anything that supports how COVID-19 has impacted you financially. If you don’t have documentation for everything, the Rent Assistance staff member will work with you to help get you the assistance you need.
The Eviction Resolution Program at the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County (DRC) was created to resolve landlord and tenant disputes before they lead to court filings and evictions. The DRC is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides impartial mediation services to Thurston and Mason counties. Anyone, tenant or landlord, can contact the Dispute Resolution Center at 360.956.1155 to participate in the program, at no cost. For assistance in Spanish, call 360-956-1155 Ext. 150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information and an online contact form can be found at the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County website.
If tenants have fallen behind on rent during the eviction moratorium, landlords must give notice to both their tenants and the Dispute Resolution Center prior to filing for an eviction in court. The DRC’s trained mediators will then help the tenant and landlord to negotiate a written, durable agreement that helps landlords to collect the rent they’re owed while allowing tenants to maintain their housing. The DRC helps facilitate access to Rent Assistance and other community resources in helping participants to create their own successful resolutions.
Thurston County Volunteer Legal Services and the Northwest Justice Project provide free legal advice and representation to tenants facing eviction. These two organizations work primarily with individuals who have limited incomes and senior citizens. Tenants can contact either of these organizations as soon as they receive an eviction notice. Once they are served with eviction court documents (summons and complaint), they may have a right to an attorney, and should immediately contact Thurston County Volunteer Legal Services or Northwest Justice Project.
Thurston County residents are encouraged to continue checking back on resources available at local organizations. More funding and new programs may develop as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue. A great way to stay informed is to follow local community and government organizations on social media or bookmark/save their websites. You can also help by sharing information about these and other local resources.