Group attempts to halt measure aimed to protect apartment tenants in Federal Way

The judge denied the Rental Housing Association of Washington’s temporary restraining order against Stable Homes Federal Way.

The Rental Housing Association of Washington attempted to halt King County Elections from continuing to count signatures for a November ballot measure that aims to ensure fair rights for apartment tenants in Federal Way.

The association filed a temporary restraining order against Stable Homes Federal Way’s measure, however, a Maleng Regional Justice Center judge denied the plaintiff’s restraining order during a hearing on July 29.

It was a brief victory for Stable Homes Federal Way, who are hoping to see this initiative pass this November to ensure equal rights for apartment tenants in the city.

While the restraining order was denied, another hearing was set for Aug. 1 to prevent this initiative from going on the November ballot.

However, the judge also denied this motion.

An attorney for the plaintiff, Mark Leen, claimed that the way the signatures had been collected violated state law under RCW35A when it comes to municipal and city codes.

The attorney also claimed Virginia “Ginny” Ferguson, the namesake of the initiative, was not a registered voter when the signatures began to be collected, which she said went against due election process and also violated state law.

During the arguments, the judge asked why the Rental Housing Association brought these claims over a month after the signatures had been turned in.

Leen said at first the plaintiff had gone to the Federal Way City Council to voice their legal concerns and had also sent a letter to council members regarding this issue.

They decided to file the restraining order after the council proceeded despite the arguments presented.

The defending attorney for Stable Homes Federal Way, Knol Lowney, said first, they did not receive notice of the restraining order hearing until the Friday before it happened, on July 26.

He also argued that stopping King County from counting the signatures collected would cause immeasurable harm.

“Stopping an initiative from the ballot is actually a harm that can never really be brought back,” he said.

Leen argued that this initiative violates the same rights it is trying to protect.

“I find it supremely ironic … to have an initiative that would provide procedural protections to renters that the sponsors of this initiative would trample over the procedural protections of the voters,” Leen said.

Ryan Call, city attorney for Federal Way, claimed at the hearing he did not believe Stable Homes Federal Way had done anything to violate any codes or laws.

According to court documents, several complaints were brought forth to ask for a temporary restraining order, including the status of Ferguson’s voter registration at the time the initiative was first started, and the sponsors did not pre-submit the initiative according to FWRC 1.30.030.

Members of Stable Homes Federal Way celebrated briefly after the restraining order was denied, and thanked everyone who helped gather signatures.

“It feels good because I feel like the court is respecting the importance of initiatives, the importance of democracy,” said Xochitl Maykovich with Stable Homes Federal Way and Washington CAN.

Due to the ongoing nature of these legal issues, Leen was unable to provide comment of the proceedings at this time.

However, the Rental Housing Association of Washington provided their statement on the matter from Executive Director Sean Martin.

“We must urgently address the need for affordable housing in Washington State, but undermining the democratic process by skirting election laws isn’t the right way to do it. Instead, we should work together to help residents remain in their homes and communities while creating more housing that works for people of all income levels.”