Kenmore city council acknowledges Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talks of tenant protections

The council passed a tenant protection ordinance by 5-2 votes.

At the March 28 Kenmore City Council meeting April was proclaimed to be both Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and councilmembers passed a motion to increase rental protections in the city.

“Whereas in Washington state, 45% of women and 22% of men report having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime,” said Mayor Nigel Herbig. “Evidence shows that transgender and gender nonbinary people are at even greater risk.”

Mayor Herbig brought up how rape is among the most underreported crimes due to survivor fear of not being believed or re-traumatized, and that negative impacts of the trauma include fear of safety, and mental and physical health conditions, among others.

Laurel Redden of King County Sexual Assault Resource Center accepted the Sexual Assault Awareness Month proclamation.

“We served over 5,000 individuals in 2021, and that’s a 23% increase over the number we supported just five years ago,” said Redden. “Amid a pandemic, survivors and their families have faced even more challenges.”

One of the challenges Redden described was when survivors have pending legal cases against their abusers, legal cases have been carried out to a point where advocates need to provide further safety planning, emotional support, and case management.

“Almost half of our clients are under the age of 18, and I mention that because young people are the age most at risk for sexual assault, and we certainly do appreciate the fact that you’re also declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month as well,” said Redden.

Redden explained how those under the age of 18 are the savviest about making connections online, which can allow for online abuse to escalate. Redden encourages parents and caregivers to hold conversations about healthy relationships and forms of communication with young people in their lives.

“What you’re doing here this evening is really important,” said Redden. “By talking about sexual violence, you’re actually sending an important message to survivors. You’re telling them ‘You’re not alone’, and you’re saying, ‘Your story matters’.”

Tenant protection ordinance passes

At a Kenmore city council meeting on February 14, councilmembers gave council staff direction on several renter protection regulations which were brought up at the most recent meeting.

Some of the tenant protections from the ordinance consist of notices of rental increases, limits and exceptions on move-in fees and security deposits, limits on late fees, and social security numbers no longer being required for screenings.

“I’m very, very concerned that it’s going to do just the opposite of what we expected to do,” said Councilmember David Baker. “I’m afraid that without getting background information, that one, people are going to be afraid to rent to people without knowing background.”

Councilmember Baker relayed that the lack of background knowledge on a potential renter will drive up the cost of units, and that he cannot support the ordinance the way it is written.

Following Councilmember Baker’s remarks, Councilmember Corina Pfeil spoke up and explained that many of the provisions that were under consideration have previously been adopted by King County, unincorporated areas of King County, and other cities. Councilmember Pfeil mentioned that the provisions have been well practiced, well studied, and are not causing any adverse impacts.

“It’s easy to live in fear, but historically our city has been behind, further behind many other cities in rental protections,” said Councilmember Pfeil. “Through the COVID pandemic we saw highlight the further inequalities and harsh realities that come with social determinants of health and housing, so that being said, I am happy to move forward on the ordinance as it stands tonight.”

The ordinance for rental protections was passed by 5-2 votes, with Councilmember Baker and Councilmember Joe Marshall having voted no.

The new provisions will require 120 days’ written notice for rent increases greater than 3%-, or 180-days’ written notice for rent increases greater than 10%. Furthermore, all move-in fees and security deposits must be charged by a landlord before the tenant moves-in, and fees shall not exceed one month’s rent, with an exception for subsidized housing.

Tenants entering rental agreements that last six months or more have the option to pay their move-in fees and security deposits in six equal month installments over the first six months occupying the unit. Tenants entering rental agreements that are shorter than six months have the option to pay move-in and security fees in two equal monthly installments over the first two months of occupying the unit.

For more information on Kenmore’s tenant protections click here.