SEATTLE (AP) — A Nevada-based property management company that issued eviction notices to tenants in Tacoma during the coronavirus pandemic has agreed to pay nearly $350,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The money includes nearly $300,000 for tenants in the form of refunds, payments and rent forgiveness.
It was the first lawsuit to enforce one of Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamations during the pandemic, The Seattle Times reported.
The governor on March 18 established a moratorium on evictions for the inability to pay rent that specifically prohibits landlords from issuing notices to pay or vacate during the effective period of Inslee’s proclamation, according to a statement from Ferguson’s office.
Nevada-based JRK Residential Group — a real-estate investment firm that manages property in 20 states, and whose portfolio represents about $6 billion of investment capital — violated the governor’s proclamation by issuing the notices last month to at least 14 tenants of The Boulders at Puget Sound, a Tacoma apartment complex with more than 700 units, according to the suit.
JRK said in a statement Thursday it had taken steps after the pandemic began to “ease the resulting burdens” on its tenants but recognized that more could have been done.
“To that end, we have worked with the State to further improve our policies and procedures and to offer our residents financial compensation to ease their burden during this time,” the statement said.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed April 20, also asserted that JRK sent unfair, deceptive and harassing communications to more than 1,400 Washington state tenants.
As part of a consent decree filed Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court, JRK will be required to forgive or pay back April rent for the 14 tenants and pay $246,900 to 1,441 other tenants, among other measures.
“JRK Residential knew about the governor’s proclamation, and ignored it,” Ferguson said. “This large, sophisticated corporation knew the law, and still threatened to evict tenants. This resolution makes those tenants whole.”