New Seattle Rental Regulations: First Applicant Wins

We thought RRIO was going to be the biggest change to hit the Seattle rental market in recent history, but Seattle City Council voted in a new regulation that is going further complicate the life of a landlord.

The Seattle City Council voted in these new regulations August, and now we’re starting to hear from landlords about the unintended consequences of the new ordinance that goes into effect January 1, 2017.

The intentions of the new ordinance are well meaning, but the implementation is going to be onerous for smaller landlords with more paperwork and oversight. While doing some research for this post, I found this timely picture from Seattle in 1964 on the HUD website.


Explicit housing discrimination, such as that protested at this Congress of Racial Equality-sponsored demonstration in Seattle in 1964, has declined dramatically, but subtle forms persist. Photo courtesy: Photo, Item 63893, Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives

The primary goal is to ban discrimination against renters with alternative sources of income, such as Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment insurance, child-support payments and other assistance programs. Note, renters using federal Section 8 vouchers are already protected from discrimination in Seattle; however, many Section 8 renters would argue that they’re still discriminated against and a recent sting operation validated “Two-thirds of landlords treated people posing as prospective renters differently based on whether they had Section 8 vouchers.” If the current protection isn’t helping, how is expanding the scope going to help?

Enter the real challenge–the new ordinance will require landlords to review applications one at a time, then pick the first renter who meets their screening criteria. The goal, Herbold said is to “‘level the playing field’ by stopping landlords from picking the renters they like best among qualified applicants.” This might make sense for a large apartment complex with cookie cutter units and an on-site manager, but when you’re a landlord of one house and you have two applications that both meet all of your published criteria, but one person is enthusiastic about maintaining the yard and the other checked the box, but applied moments earlier what do you do?

To further add to the management load, landlords will be required to disclose screening criteria with their listings and keep track of the date and time they receive each application; however, applicants will not have access to this information.

Imagine if these rules were implemented to home sales? Your 30% over list price, 20 person bidding war reduced to the first full-price offer that you receive.

Bushwick Property Management is on top of all the latest regulations and has the tools and systems in place to manage all of these regulations for you. Call/text 206-899-0994 today to find out how we can help you.


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