Unions demonstrating in Ballard last April.
Lockhaven tenant fights back against ‘illegal eviction’ and ‘retaliation’
The Lockhaven issue continues to spill like a cup of dark-roast Starbucks coffee across the news-desk of the Ballard News-Tribune even after the once affordable housing complex, Lockhaven Apartments, has become Cadence Apartments: upscale apartments, operated by Goodman Real Estate (GRE).
A longtime tenant of the apartment complex, who prefers to not be named in this article, -- the BNT will call her Ann -- has been fighting what she calls “illegal action” and “retaliation” since GRE took ownership in 2013.
Ann, a Lockhaven Tenants Union (LTU) and Tenants Union of Washington (TUW) member, has been battling over tenant’s rights with GRE since their early eviction notices in late September 2013. Those 20-day eviction notices were illegal and were reprimanded by the Department of Planning and Development.
“We've spent countless hours over many months working with this resident to help her successfully relocate,” stated GRE.
Since being issued a 20-day eviction notice in April, June and July 2014, Ann has fought to keep GRE true to what they originally told her and keep her lease termination scheduled for this October. This date was the original arrangement GRE had agreed to earlier this year but reneged last April because of what Ann calls “retaliation” for being active in the LTU.
Letters given to tenants by GRE back in September 2012 and up until March did say the schedule of eviction would be subject to change.
The explanation for eviction Ann received from GRE was that because she was the only person residing in a stack (a vertical section of a building) it made sense for her to vacate earlier in order to start construction.
As an active union member, Ann spoke out and demonstrated last April when GRE issued 20 evictions notices to tenants that happened to be union members, her being one of them.
The Lockhaven Tenants Union and Tenants Union of Washington marched from downtown Ballard to John Goodman’s (Founder and CEO of GRE) private marina on Seaview Avenue next to Ray’s.
In addition, in February, Ann also reported GRE to King County authorities when asbestos and lead were discovered in her building during a construction project. According to Ann, GRE contractors failed to control the dust that permeated the building where an infant resided. King County officials did report lead three times the legal limit in the building. Moreover, in a meeting GRE had with City Councilman, Nick Lacata, it was admitted, “the property is unsafe with asbestos and lead throughout the complex and lead inside the apartments."
Moreover, since the eviction attempt in April, Ann reports that she has been sent 20-day eviction notices every month since then, and was currently served an eviction letter July 31, asking for her vacation of the property based on this reason:
“The property owner seeks to do substantial rehabilitation in the building and has obtained a Tenant Relocation License as required by SMC Chapter 22.210 and at least one permit necessary for the rehabilitation (SMC 22.206.160.C.1.h.). Permit #6423158.”
“As the Tenant's Union and this resident are well aware, the Lockhaven relocation schedule published last fall indicated clearly that it was subject to change. Because Lockhaven is a series of small buildings, we were able to provide residents a staggered, nearly year-long timeframe to move out. To accomplish this, we phased our construction/renovation schedule building-by-building. This resident's schedule did change from October 2014 to April 2014 – along with four other residents. This was not retaliation – but a change in our construction schedule, which we said from the beginning could happen,” stated GRE.
In response to GRE’s attempts to remove her, Ann filed a formal complaint with Seattle Police Department May 18, 2014. In the report SPD mentions that Ann accused GRE of “illegal eviction notices” and “retaliation” against her for union action.
In the complaint Ann said: "the termination of my tenancy constitutes an illegal attempt to punish and silence me, in violation of SMC 22.206.180.A, SMC 22.206.160.C, and RCW 59.18.240, for engaging in protected activities, including contacting regulatory agencies."
According to Ann, she has been able to dodge GRE’s eviction since April because GRE lacked the legal grounds to remove her. Ann reported GRE had not secured the construction permits needed before issuing eviction notices when construction of the site is the reason for eviction.
Tenants laws states that when a tenant believes a landlord flagrantly infringes on their rights, they are to report these allegations to SPD. SPD then assesses the situation and determines if mediation is required and may refer the case to the City Attorney’s Office or the DPD.
Responding to Ann’s allegations, SPD did file a short report. In their less than 200 word assessment, Ann is described as a tenant that accused GRE of changing the timeline of her eviction and accused GRE of singling her out for union action.
But the report didn’t stop there.
SPD referred the case to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office (SCAO) shortly after May 18th, when the complaint was issued. From their, the City Attorney’s Office took almost 11 weeks to respond to Ann’s complaint, even though City Attorney, Patrick Downs, stated that, “At some point in the process we knew she was in the eviction process.”
Downs reported via email to the Ballard New-Tribune that: “I became involved in this matter at approximately week 10 and a resolution came about shortly thereafter. In a code-enforcement context this is a quick resolution,” said Downs.
After weeks of battling GRE eviction threats, GRE told Ann that her once scheduled eviction of October 31 would be honored.
“She has repeatedly pushed for an extension to her move out date, which we have consistently granted. With her new October move out date, she will have had nearly a year to move, but continues to not make a good faith effort to find a new home,” stated GRE.
Furthermore, on July 31 Ann received a letter from the SCAO that indicated: "Now that GRE has agreed to revert to the original move-out date in response to our inquiry, the City Attorney’s Office will not file an action for civil penalties."
The SCAO neither confirmed nor denied that GRE committed tenants rights infractions.
In response to what the TUW calls the “inaction” by the SCAO, the TUW is writing a letter to the their office, the DPD, and the Mayor, asking for accountability for tenants’ rights.
Responding to the SCAO’s letter, Tenants Union Executive Director Jonathan Grant says, “This tenant lost four months of time, energy, and money to simply get the time back that she was promised. Goodman Real Estate is currently getting off unscathed. By refusing to pursue civil charges, the City is giving the green light to developers and landlords everywhere to break the law with zero repercussions during one of the worst affordable housing crises Seattle has seen.”