Woodridge is one of Bellevue’s most desirable neighborhoods. It boasts easy access to downtown and stunning views of Lake Washington. Homes in the area routinely sell for millions.
Jaskaran Singh owns a home in the neighborhood as a rental property.
‘I bought it two years back,” says Singh.
He thought Sang Kim along with his wife and kids were going to be ideal tenants. That is, until the Kim family allegedly stopped paying rent.
“He’s got a new car, he’s got a new car parked inside also,” Singh tells me.
Singh turned to the city for help and even tried mediation. But when that didn’t work, he started an eviction process that has been dragging on for months.
“He lied for everything,” Singh says. “He’s simply exploiting the system.”
King County courts are behind on at least 600 eviction cases, one of the main causes behind the delays.
“There is no law protecting the landlord,” Singh tells me. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
In a joint investigation, KVI radio’s Ari Hoffman and I took a closer look at what is behind this backlog.
William Shadbolt is with the Washington Business Properties Association.
He says that “judges and commissioners in other counties, like Kitsap, are openly mocking King County.”
Shadbolt says state law clearly shows eviction cases must be prioritized over other civil matters, and hearings must be granted within 30 days.
“They should be clearing this backlog of eviction cases that they created,” says Shadbolt.
But he explains that the system is broken and there is no accountability.
“Somebody will file a lawsuit, that might force the issue,” says Shadbolt.
We reached out to King County courts for comment on the delays. A spokesperson sent us a statement that reads in part:
“This is due to a variety of reasons out of our control. Legislative changes have led to lengthier hearings, defenses, and right to counsel.”
Meanwhile, Singh is losing thousands of dollars in rental income each month while still paying the mortgage and utilities on this expensive property.
“I’m suffering while he’s enjoying all the amenities,” says Singh.
That’s why he’s been trying to collect rent by any means necessary, even confronting his tenant in person.
Kim claims to be a Korean national who is just trying to make it in the U.S. and says this is all a big misunderstanding.
“You know he’s been fabricating the story to the court so that’s why I’m still here,” Kim told me when I visited the home to get his side of the story.
In fact, Kim is now accusing Singh of harassment and being an absent landlord, “he’s not fixing anything.”
But he could not explain why he was so behind on rent or when he would come up with the rest of what he owes.
“He’s been bugging me constantly, weekly,” Kim tells me.
Kim referred me to his attorney at the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, which offers free legal help to low-income renters facing eviction.
No one there returned my phone calls, so I went to the office in person to find out how they choose their clients.
Singh does not believe these pro-bono lawyers properly vet their clients and are allowing unqualified people to mooch off the system.
A representative declined to comment and gave me another number to call, but it went straight to voicemail.
Compass real estate agent Jani Spencer says Kim is a repeat offender.
“He’s done this more than once,” she tells me. “He’s very convincing.”
Spencer accused Kim of doing the same thing at another Bellevue property several years ago.
“He’s a con artist,” she says, and tells me that her clients are still owed thousands of dollars in back rent.
Bellevue Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis is following this case closely and says there are similar situations across the state.
Nieuwenhuis says the law “is heavily skewed in favor now in terms of supporting tenants.” “Unfortunately, word is out they can manipulate the system.”
Republican state representative Andrew Barkis says he is in support of more legislation to protect mom and pop landlords.
“We need balance,” says Barkis. “We should look at things from both perspectives. The state is getting crazy. The activists for the tenants have really set the agenda.”
At this point, Singh says all he can do is wait, but he’s already lost faith in the legal system.
“Other landlords shouldn’t be in the same situation,” says Singh.
He’s now advising others to avoid renting out their properties, at least in Washington State.