Korean Americans join Washington landlord’s protest against tenant who owes $80K in rent

Korean Americans join Washington landlord’s protest against tenant who owes $80K in rent
via choeshow
Ryan General
March 19, 2024
A Washington landlord organized a protest outside his rental home against a tenant who is reportedly leveraging legal loopholes to avoid eviction.
Key points:
  • Landlord Jaskaran Singh is owed over $80,000 in total unpaid rent by a tenant allegedly abusing eviction protection programs.
  • The tenant initially received assistance to cover back rent and time to move but chose to remain in the property.
  • Frustrated by the lack of legal recourse, Singh organized a protest outside his rental home on Saturday to draw attention to his plight.

The details:
  • Singh rented his single-family home in Bellevue to tenant Sang Kim in 2022 and received only the first and the following month’s rent when the family moved. After months of non-payment and failed city-led mediation attempts, Singh’s attorney, Stephen Freeborn, began eviction proceedings.
  • The King County Bar Association’s homelessness prevention program Housing Justice Project (HJP) intervened, providing free legal counsel to the tenant and covering the back rent plus a three-month advance to allow time for relocation. Despite receiving support, the tenant refused to vacate the home and hasn’t paid any rent since May 2023. The original lease expired in April 2023.
  • The tenant, who claims to be a Korean national striving to succeed in the U.S., alleged misrepresentation and accused Singh of neglectful property management. He has even managed to secure a temporary restraining order against Singh’s eviction attempts.
  • HJP representative Edmund Witter acknowledged a surge in eviction filings but noted that many tenants struggle financially. Kim claimed his financial hardship stems from pandemic-related job loss in the medical consulting field.
  • Meanwhile, Singh, who lost his job last year, has now taken on two jobs to support paying for the mortgage and utilities of the rental property on top of his own. 
  • Singh’s attorney emphasized the detrimental impact of prolonged eviction processes on both landlords and tenants, citing delays and backlogs within the court system as contributing factors. Questioning the tenant’s financial claims, Freeborn said: “The guy can’t pay his rent, but he has two brand new cars parked in the driveway.”
  • The protest Singh organized on March 16, which was filmed by Seattle journalist Jonathan Choe, garnered significant support, drawing a crowd of over 200 people, composed of residents, landlords and politicians from both parties. Korean American leaders also joined the protest and condemned the tenant’s actions as a “disgrace to the community.” The tenant reportedly called the police during Singh’s organized protest, resulting in officers advising Singh and his supporters to leave the property.
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The big picture:
  • The case highlights a systemic breakdown within the eviction process. Existing statutes intended to expedite eviction cases (within 30 days) are not being upheld, harming landlords and potentially vulnerable tenants. The backlog of eviction cases stems, in part, from pandemic-era policies deferring rent and halting evictions. Freeborn has blamed the court system for routine delays, which worsen backlogs and financial burdens on landlords.
What’s next:
  • Filed last year, Singh’s eviction case against the tenant will resume in court on April 5. Singh received a writ of execution in January but HJP requested a stay, effectively delaying the eviction attempt. The landlord and his supporters vow to hold weekly protests until the tenant leaves.
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