residents get eviction notices amid city seeking condemnation
Michael Whitney photo
The owner through his attorneys gave eviction notices to residents at the Waits Motel.
EVERETT — People residing in the Waits Motel lacked hot water for four days in late October, risked having their tap water and electric power shut off, and earlier this month the owner's attorney issued eviction notices on uncertain grounds.
The written "vacate" date from the owner's attorneys was Monday, Nov. 13 after press time.
Long-term tenants in nine motel rooms received "termination of occupancy" letters to vacate within seven days.
The Waits' owner Medhat Said is navigating the city's civil condemnation petition from August to take and raze the site at 1301 Lombard Ave.
The city of Everett is not behind the attempt to clear residents out, city attorney David Hall told the City Council last week. He said the eviction letters caught the city by surprise. Hall said a line in the vacate notices falsely claims the city's condemnation effort is forcing the owner to cease operating immediately "is just wrong."
A first round of "seven-day" notices were distributed Nov. 3 stating to leave by Nov. 8, or five days, which stirred the City Council at its Nov. 8 meeting. A corrected version had been distributed Nov. 6 with a true seven-day timeline of Nov. 13.
A few residents scoffed at the letter's legality. City officials last week questioned the same, saying any eviction is a long process.
The eviction notices are legal, said the attorney whose signature is on the notices. She declined to discuss the Waits situation as she is not authorized to speak on behalf of the motel’s owner.
The eviction notices assert that because this is a motel, the traditional eviction timelines and procedures don’t apply. Washington’s tenant-landlord law it cites says a lawfully defined “tenant” doesn’t include anyone who began living in a motel after March 1, 2020, only before.
Some eviction notice recipients have been here for more than six years. Residents who looked into the laws considered the notices dubious.
One of the attorneys directly representing the owner did not respond to a Nov. 9 phone message by press time to discuss this story.
The city launched its court petition Aug. 28. The last activity in court filings was late September. More filings will be coming, Hall said.
The city has been trying to negotiate with Said to sign a contract to let the city have its relocation service assist the residents as part of the condemnation process, Mayor Cassie Franklin told the council last week.
The utility shutoff notices for non-payment started about two months after the condemnation file hit court. Tenants went without gas for their rooms, meaning no hot water, from Oct. 27 to 30.
The city prevented the city water and PUD power from being shut off, Hall said.
Motel manager Emily Simpson said she thinks the owner is letting bills slide to cut his business losses.
Residents such as Mike Ford and Jeremiah Leathart said they’re convinced the motel’s owner actively wants tenants to leave. It’s not known if Said’s goal is to clear out people to close up the motel and sell it quick to the city.
Multiple residents said they’re confused why the relocation specialists the city promised would help them showed up to get people’s information, but hadn’t returned as of last week until Friday, Nov. 10.
More visits are coming after the city finalizes a contract to have the relocation firm take the next steps of what city government director Jennifer Gregerson called a “multi-month relocation process.”
Councilwoman Liz Vogeli has been monitoring the issue closely. Vogeli flung a theory during the council meeting that the owner’s eviction attempt conveniently is “the perfect scapegoat to get the residents out without (the city) paying for the relocation” costs.
City administration sharply rebuked that.
Franklin said “it would be far more beneficial for us to pay for relocation” versus increasing the population of people experiencing homelessness.
While the owner, Said, is navigating the condemnation, Simpson’s navigating it, too, as the on-site manager who this spring cleaned up the place and kicked out the drug abusers.
“I didn’t go through all this to make a bunch of homeless people,” Simpson said.
The owner had listed the property for sale months before Simpson arrived.
Simpson and her husband’s plan to buy the motel from Said and rebrand it as a boutique motel got scuttled by the condemnation, she said.
A city timeline says it made a purchase offer May 19 which the owner declined.
The city prepared a report for condemnation in early July. The council voted 5-1 to authorize a city request to proceed. Vogeli voted no.
The city labeled the motel a neighborhood blight on two criteria available in state law: It constitutes a threat to public health and welfare and had much drug activity in the 12 months from June 2022 to June 2023.
Leathart, at the Waits, called the condemnation attempt illogical: The drugs and crime at the motel were cleaned up in the spring before the city broached doing a condemnation in the summer.
“These are human beings and their lives are being destroyed on an illegality of premise” behind the condemnation, Leathart said.
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