Days before eviction, Tiki residents get an extension as Tacoma passes a Tenants Rights Code

The residents of the Tiki Apartments — some of whom were told they had to be out of their apartments by Monday — will now have until the end of June to find a new place to live.

That's because the Tacoma City Council and the apartment complex's new owner, CWD Investments LLC, came to an agreement this week, council members said at an emergency council meeting held Thursday afternoon. As a result, Tiki residents who stay until the end of June will get $600 to help them pay to relocate. Anyone who chooses to leave before the end of May will get $900.

Residents will have to pay rent for as long as they plan to stay, according to Sean Flynn, attorney for the property owner. But the council's action Thursday essentially reset the clock on the eviction notices for the Tiki residents.

In exchange for the extension, the council voted to push back the effective date of a new city law requiring 90-day notice for such evictions to May 14. Originally, the ordinance had an effective date of Friday. That way, the owner of the Tiki won't be required to provide 90 days notice for tenants to leave.

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The ordinance the council passed creates a Tenant Rights Code in the city's municipal code that requires 90-day notice to tenants when they're asked to move out because of a change of use of the dwelling unit or because of a substantial renovation or a demolition. CWD Investments LLC has said it is planning major renovations at the 58-unit apartment complex near state Route 16 and South 12th Street.

That 90-day protection won't apply to tenants who are being evicted for not paying rent or violating other parts of the state's Landlord Tenant Act. It also won't apply to anyone living in uninhabitable, derelict buildings, Councilman Anders Ibsen said.

The Tiki Apartments were purchased by the Seattle-based CWD Investments LLC earlier this month. On April 5, residents in all 58 units received a notice from Allied Residential, the third-party company that now manages the property. The notices indicated that residents in half of the units had until April 30 to vacate. Residents in the other half had until the end of May.

The plight of those residents, many of whom are low income or disabled and were facing homelessness, stirred Tacomans to action and drove the City Council to act quickly before Tiki residents were forced onto the street.

"Over the past 48 hours, the mayor and myself have been working with the owner and representatives of the Tiki Apartments to figure out ways that we could better assist the residents," Councilman Keith Blocker said Thursday before announcing the deal the city made with the company.

The council also is planning to consider creating a relocation assistance fund for people in similar situations. That fund and further discussion about the issue of tenants rights are expected to come up at the council's Tuesday, May 1, meeting.

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"Whether you're a vulnerable person or not vulnerable, if you play by the rules and did everything right to the best of your ability and work hard and pay taxes and do everything you can, you shouldn't have to worry about having a roof over your head," Ibsen said. "That's just a basic human right."

Council chambers were packed both Tuesday and Thursday to discuss the Tiki Apartments issue. Tearful pleas from residents who are worried they would become homeless turned to some relief and applause when they learned of the extension and when the council passed the 90-day notice law.

But there will be more evictions like this one, several speakers at the meeting warned. Amy Tower with the Tenants Union of Washington State noted that in Tacoma's hot housing market there are probably people who will slip through the cracks and find out they have to move out of their apartments before the 90-day notice law goes into effect May 14.

Blocker also recommended the City Council take up a resolution Tuesday requesting the city manager to find and pay for a case manager to provide services to the Tiki residents.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441