Landlords suing over Seattle’s ‘first come, first served’ rental ordinance say it’s unconstitutional
SEATTLE -- A lawsuit in Seattle pits some fundamental rights against each other -- it’s civil rights that ban discrimination, and property rights that allow owners to decide what to do with their homes and land. The issue is with a new law that requires landlords to rent to tenants […]
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Hana Kim | March 23, 2017 at 9:04pm
Categories: Consumer, News | URL: http://via.q13fox.com/Pela6
Welcome to RHAWA’s Tenant Screening Tuesday’s. Each week we will post a discussion questions regarding the tenant screening industry & best practices. This will be a great place to come and receive quick answers to questions from RHAWA’s Tenant Screening Specialists, as well as other landlords.
Tenant Screening Tuesday’s will feature articles, questions, and stories related to the industry, including RHAWA’s take on the situation, as well as offer tips and ideas to overcome any situation.
This week we’ll start with a question asked during a recent RHAWA Tenant Screening Orientation.
Q. With all the changes taking place in Seattle, am I able to offer an adverse action to accept someone who does not fully qualify for my unit, even though I may have already rejected other applicants?
A. The Seattle “first in time” law requires that you first make the same adverse action offer to any previous applicants already rejected, in the order those applications were originally received. The first applicant you rejected should be the first applicant you offer an adverse action to. (See Adverse Action Notice)
Share with us how are you handling screening when you find yourself having to deny multiple applicants?
Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is continuing her political march against independent landlords as she prepares to push CB 118756 through her Energy and Environment Committtee meeting tomorrow at 2pm - a proposal which would institute hard caps on rental housing move-in fees and force landlords to provide payment plans for those fees at the request of tenants.
WashingtonCAN! has the attention of Sawant, with this newest proposal due in part to a July 2016 report published by the group which advocates for increased protections for renters. Cited as a research study indicating the need for caps on move-in fees, the report is actually based on information collected by a methodology known as “snowball sampling.” Essentially, what this means is that Seattle Council is creating legislation using "data" based entirely on responses received from WashCAN!'s own members, their members’ friends, and individuals who actively seek out their information on social media.
Looking to write Seattle Council in opposition to CB 118817 but don't know where to start? Consider using the sample letter below. Landlords are strongly encouraged to add their own context or personal experiences.
Seattle Council email addresses:
As an independent landlord in Seattle I am writing to ask that you vote NO on CB 118817 which would enact caps on all tenant move-in costs and force landlords to provide payment plans on those costs.
CB 118817 is poor policy. Independent landlords place themselves in a position of financial risk every time they turn the keys over to a new tenant. Move-in fees are the only means available to an independent landlord, such as myself, to mitigate those risks. In fact, the ability to charge move-in fees, which are overwhelmingly refundable, allows me to keep monthly rents lower.
On Monday, August 8, Seattle City Council adopted new legislation which forces rental housing owners in Seattle to process applications beginning with the first peson in line (submits a complete application w/supporting info, and pays a screening fee). Called "first in time," the legislation essentially mandates a "first come, first served" policy. While this is the recommended practice for conducting tenant screening, it omits several key variables in the screening process, such as being able to interview an applicant, as well as having discretion to rent to a lesser qualified individual who is second in line to give that individual a new housing opportunity.
Setting aside the normal fair housing rules related to protected classes, there has always been a component during the screening process which allowed owners to "interview" an applicant as a part of their process to determine if that person was a good match. This process is no different than a job hiring process where candidates are interviewed based upon their qualifications, and an offer is then made to the person who both meets the minimum qualification requirements, but who also is the best fit at the company.
The City of Seattle is convening a roundtable discussion of multifamily rental property owners to provide advice and feedback on several proposed and existing tools to preserve affordable private market housing. RHA has partnered with the Seattle Office of Housing to engage property owners in this conversation on a toolkit of strategies to preserve existing affordable housing as part of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).
HALA, convened by Mayor Murray, is a multi-pronged approach to increase the affordability and availability of housing in Seattle. Part of the HALA road map charges the City with developing a program to preserve existing housing in the private market that is affordable to low-income people. The City Council has also prioritized preservation by creating a new loan program as part of the 2016 Seattle Housing Levy on the August 2 ballot that can help property owners make critical repairs and keep rents affordable.
We now sit with only 10 days left in Washington’s 2016 Legislative Session. With the fiscal committee cutoff Monday, February 29 and the opposite house of origin cutoff on Friday March 4, there is a critically short amount of time for policy bills to finish their journey to become law this year. While proponents of legislation still being considered are working feverishly to pass their bills, most of the attention in Olympia is now focused on the Supplemental Budget. This year the House introduced their version of the budget first. The House Supplemental Budget increases the 2015-17 general fund spending by $478.4 million. Major items include $99.0 million for recruiting and retaining teachers, a tax increase of $123.8 million and an appropriation of nearly half a billion dollars from the Budget Stabilization Account (also known as the rainy day fund) for the homeless and to help fight forest fires.
Senate Republicans claim that the House budget relies heavily on hypothetical tax increases, which House Democrats refuse to vote on. The Senate, led by Republicans, also opposes withdrawing such a large amount from the “rainy day fund” and favor waiting for next year’s budget debate to address the teacher shortage rather than pursuing a short-term solution during this supplemental budget year. The Senate’s Supplemental Budget would increase general fund spending for 2015-17 by $33.6 million. Priorities include new classroom funding, mental-health and replenishing the Model Toxics Control Act account, and $6.6 million for charter schools out of the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.
Last week saw the house of Origin Cutoff deadline narrow the amount of bills still alive for consideration by this year’s legislature. The vast majority of “good ideas” are now “dead”, as legislators turn their focus towards a narrow group of remaining bills and the budget process.
While most of the week was spent in the chambers, caucusing and voting on bills, Legislators still found time to have a few controversial public hearings on policy bills. Senator Steve Litzow continues to pursue funding for charter schools with his bill (SB 6194) which would call for an appropriation of roughly $18 million out of the general fund. The bill now waits executive action in the House Education Committee, after a very well attended public hearing last Friday.
Last week saw the end of fiscal committees consideration of bills, with lawmakers spending almost all their time in caucus with their party and voting on the floor. In the Senate, two controversial votes on bathroom gender, and 2/3rds majority to eliminate tax exemptions have created the first serious animosity and threats to end the productivity of broader agreements. The legislature will continue with floor action for three more days, until they run into the all-important house of origin cutoff at 5pm on Wednesday the 17th.
RHAWA continues to work alongside the housing coalition to bring SB 6413 (landlord-tenant omnibus) out of the Senate, the bill is sponsored by moderate Senator Mark Mullet. His work with the Chair in the Senate housing committee on the issue made him the clear choice as sponsor, and he continues to work diligently to put the bill above petty party politics. We also have a backstop version of the bill (HB 2811) that will move in the house this upcoming week.