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Observations On Recent Seattle Rental Legislation

Madeson Management is very pleased with the ruling overturning the First in Time Ordinance. It provided prospective tenants with a mechanism to tie up multiple properties without a hold deposit and increase vacancy time/cost. We will continue to process applications in the order we receive them in the spirit of general fairness, we’ve always done this, but we are glad to be free of the bureaucracy that stymied the process.

There is another piece of local legislation that just took effect on 2/19/18 – the Fair Chance Ordinance.  This legislation prohibits landlords from running or considering criminal background checks in their screening process.  The thought behind it is, minorities are disproportionately represented in the criminal system due to inherent bias, which then translates to bias in housing when criminal checks are used.  The exception to this rule is sex offender registry status. Landlords can still check for this and if they can prove a sex offender’s presence in a building would negatively impact business (for example, in an apartment building where other tenants would move out if a sex offender moved in), then they can decline the applicant. It will be interesting to see if this ordinance is also overturned, citing the basis for the recent decision with the First in Time ordinance.

This wave of recent tenant-friendly housing legislation is causing fallout in the housing industry. We at Madeson Management are seeing it first-hand, with many applicants saying their landlords are forcing them out to bulldoze their rentals and build row houses or townhouses for sale, or existing landlords coming to us for management assistance or selling because Seattle Landlord-Tenant law is too complex for the average independent landlord to navigate now. Our typical lease agreement is around 50 pages in length, due to Seattle-required disclosures, and the verbiage used in listing ads and appointments is very carefully crafted to comply with fair housing and other rules. To be sure, some fair housing rules are necessary – we still hear anecdotes from tenants of landlords illegally denying housing to people with children, unmarried couples, immigrants – but it’s clear the pendulum has swung far enough towards tenants that the city is now losing rental inventory as landlords sour on the process.

Posted by: Melissa Melia on March 30, 2018