A Seattle homeowner living out of a van while his deadbeat tenant listed his house on Airbnb will have to wait at least four more months for an eviction hearing due to a severe court backlog.
“I feel like I’m just constantly getting robbed, like every day,” Jason Roth told Fox News. “This is my worst nightmare.”
Roth barely considers himself a landlord. He bought his house in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood in 2016 and fixed it up while renting rooms to friends.
“It was always affordable rooms available,” he said, adding that even during the pandemic, his tenants often paid him early. “It was always a positive experience.”
That changed this year. Roth, who works as an aircraft mechanic’s apprentice, said he started renting out the entire house to make extra money for pilot school. He and his dog Wally moved into a small apartment.
But the tenant, who signed a lease in March, now owes about $33,400 in back rent, plus utilities and late fees, Roth estimates.
With mortgage payments and utility bills piling up, Roth said he had to cut costs and move out of his apartment and into his van, all while his tenant listed the home’s basement living space on Airbnb for nearly $150 a night using a city-approved rental license.
“So, not only is he not paying me, but he’s generating an income through the basement Airbnb unit, and meanwhile, I’m having to pay the utilities for that unit,” Roth told KIRO 7 News, which broke the story of his ordeal.
A city spokesperson later told KIRO the short-term license was invalid “because it was obtained using inaccurate information about ownership of the property.” Airbnb eventually removed the listing.
WASHINGTON LEGAL SYSTEM MAKING HOMEOWNERS ‘AFRAID’ TO OFFER HOUSING, HOMELESS LANDLORD SAYS:
Roth said he’s tried dozens of times to negotiate with the tenant and set up payment plans. Nothing worked.
He finally got a court hearing this week, but the judge granted a continuance. The next available court date wasn’t until mid-March, past the end of the original lease.
“I’m sick of sleeping in my van and on couches. I just want to be back in my house,” the homeless homeowner told KIRO after the hearing. “There’s so many things in place for the city to get people housing in the winter, but I am a homeowner who’s not going to have that.”
King County has 600 eviction cases pending, KIRO reported. Across Washington, evictions spiked last year after the pandemic-era eviction moratorium expired.
“I want my house back,” Roth told Fox News. “I’m not on the street in a tent, like, I know how to be comfortable and safe, but this is homelessness. I have a home and I can’t go back to it.”
And while Roth’s tenant got a free lawyer last week courtesy of the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, Roth has to pay his own legal expenses (although his friends recently started a GoFundMe campaign to help).
“I still believe that renters should be entitled to rights,” he told Fox News. “So should landlords. There should be a fair system.”
Roth’s battle comes as the Evergreen State struggles with a growing housing shortage. State officials estimate Washington will need hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units in the next decade to keep up with demand, The Seattle Times reported.
Roth worries the current regulatory landscape will make homeowners like him think twice about becoming landlords.
“I’ve been reached out to by plenty of people who have units available who are afraid to rent them,” he said. “This environment is not conducive to people opening up their doors for people to rent their places to live.”
“There’s thousands and thousands of empty, unused units that landlords just prefer to have vacant, it seems, than to be stuck in a situation like I’m in,” he added. “And I don’t blame them.”
To hear more from Roth, click here.