Ethan Blevins | Attorney | Pacific Legal Foundation
If government can strip you of choice just because unconscious bias might influence that choice, its power would have no bounds. But that is precisely what Seattle is doing to its landlords. In Yim v. City of Seattle, Pacific Legal Foundation is challenging an anti-discrimination law that prohibits landlords from choosing their own tenants. Today, we filed our opening brief to ask the Court to invalidate this oppressive and brazen violation of fundamental rights.
As we head into the spring season, bed bugs might come up again in your rental property. While Bed Bugs are not typically common, we get calls here at RHAWA with members trying to handle a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs aren't medically harmful but they do cause small red bites on the skin and cause lots of irritation. It's never a good idea to just let the bed bugs live in your rental. Lack of response to the infestation is bad for tenant relations and is against the law.
Here are some quick things to consider when it comes to bed bugs:
On May 30, 2017, the Rental Housing Association of Washington filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle’s Move-in Fee Ordinance. We argue in the lawsuit that the ordinance is illegal under both state statutory and constitutional law.
Will you please join us today in supporting our efforts in court by making a contribution to the RHAWA Legal Defense Fund? Your contribution will help to directly fund our success in court and preserve our ability to take legal action in the future should the need arise.
As a member of RHAWA, we know that you care deeply about the security of your investment and your financial future. You’ve put too many thousands of hours of time and dollars in to managing your property to allow one city to dictate the financial terms of your leases, and force you into interest-free loans to your renters. You should be able to determine the amounts and types of safeguards to protect yourself against financial loss.
This lawsuit also represents more than just a fight against Seattle’s out of control rental housing policies. The rights of rental housing owners state-wide are at stake as we fight to ensure that Seattle’s unimaginative, illegal rules don’t spread to other jurisdictions.
Small independent landlords provide most of the affordable housing in Seattle. Unfortunately, instead of seeing RHA and its members as partners in solving housing issues, the illegal regulation of fees and deposits portrays rental property owners as nothing more than political scapegoats.
The move-in fees lawsuit filed by RHAWA joins a growing list of legal challenges which will shape the rental housing industry’s ability to provide safe, affordable housing for the next generation.
Last year we raised over $100,000 and I know that with your continued support I know that we can do even better in 2018. Expanding our budget will allow us continue fighting to achieve an outcome you deserve. The legal environment is changing and RHAWA can only fight for our members when we have the resources to do so.
You can track our progress at www.rhawa.org/legal-defense-fund.
Thank you for your ongoing support and the belief you’ve placed in RHAWA to protect the security of your rental investment interests, and our industry’s future.
Make your donation today by sending a check to: RHAWA LDF, 2414 SW Andover St, D207, Seattle, WA 98106 or by calling Geoff Schertz at 206-905-0606
Adam Purkey | Membership Engagement Manager
January 31st is one of the most important days of the year for RHAWA members, and one of the best opportunities for you to affect policies made that affect all landlords at the state level. RHAWA’s Legislative Day on the Hill is your best opportunity to voice your concerns directly to the officials that make these laws and enact meaningful policy changes. Independent landlords continue to battle against onerous laws on both the state and local level seemingly giving tenants every possible advantage when it comes to the landlord-tenant relationship. We need your stories, your experiences, and your ideas to present to the legislators to provide them with alternatives solutions as they consider new bills in 2018.
This day is so important for our members because we arrange meetings to give you time to sit down and discuss the issues that matter most with your representative in person. The voice of the tenants is a loud one, and we need to provide a strong, unified voice for property owners to ensure that your rights as landlords are not drowned out by the other side. Legislators hear from our lobbyists and our staff, but hearing firsthand accounts from actual landlords has a much greater impact. Those stories are the ones they will remember when it comes time to cast a vote that affects this industry. Your story could be the difference in how they choose to proceed.
Once you arrive at the Hotel RL in Olympia, we will make sure that you have everything you need during the day. You’ll start by having lunch and a briefing from RHAWA’s lobbyist Kyle Woodring which will get you up to speed on the prominent issues of the day even if you haven’t been closely following them. From there, we will shuttle you to the Capitol campus where you will have time to hear from an array of state representatives in the RHAWA room during the day. We also book individual appointments with your district representative so that you can speak with them directly about the things that matter most to you.
This chance to meet with your legislators in person is one that you should absolutely take advantage of to make your voice heard!
This event is underwritten by the RHAWA Political Action Committee and is absolutely free for RHAWA members. Leg. Day is your time to show up, speak up, and help enact the changes we as a community need to see made in order for landlords to succeed in the future. You can rely on us to get you everything you’ll need during the day, and we’ll rely on you to join us in Olympia on January 31st!
Full details can be found at https://www.rhawa.org/legday.html
Sean Martin | External Affairs
Stanford University researchers recently published a new study on the impacts and effects of San Francisco’s rent control policies and the results, well, they speak for themselves. RHAWA has long held that rent control is a failed policy, has far more unintended consequences which harm the housing market than there are good outcomes, and discourages the production of rental inventory to meet demand. On this, economists are near unanimously in agreement.
Before we share the how’s and why’s of rent control failures, let’s start with the summary in the direct words of the researchers.
“Taken together, we see rent controlled increased property investment, demolition and reconstruction of new buildings, conversion to owner occupied housing and a decline of the number of renters per building. All of these responses lead to a housing stock which caters to higher income individuals. Rent control has actually fueled the gentrification of San Francisco, the exact opposite of the policy’s intended goal.”
That’s quite the indictment of a policy long-favored by tenant advocates and politicians who expressly claim that rent control is the only way to ensure housing affordability and to prevent gentrification. In fact, it’s now been announced by Rep. Nicole Macri that legislation will be introduced in the 2018 session in an attempt to overturn the state ban on rent control.
Of the details included in the Stanford study, the more interesting points include:
Less rental housing supply costs tenants substantially
Owners of rent controlled properties substitute toward other types of real estate that are not regulated by rent control. In particular, rent-controlled buildings were almost 10 percent more likely to convert to a condo or a Tenancy in Common (TIC) than buildings in the control group, representing a substantial reduction in the supply of rental housing. Consistent with these findings, there is a 15 percent decline in the number of renters living in these buildings and a 25 percent reduction in the number of renters living in rent-controlled units, relative to 1994 levels.
These effects are counterbalanced by landlords reducing supply in response to the introduction of the law. We conclude that this led to a city-wide rent increase of 7% and caused $5 billion of welfare losses to all renters.
High-rent areas are much more likely to gentrify due to financial incentive for landlord to remove tenant.
Decreased social mobility and less housing opportunity for newcomers
“Rent control increased the probability a renter stayed at their address by close to 20 percent." The beneficiaries of rent control have no motivation to move, meaning less housing opportunities are made available to renters new to the market.
Decline in numbers of renters
here is an eventual decline of almost 30 percent in the number of renters living in rent-controlled apartments, a decline which is significantly larger than the overall decline in renters in the city. This is because a number of buildings which were subject to rent control status in 1994 were redeveloped in such way so as to no longer be subject to it. These redevelopment activities include tearing down the existing structure and putting up new single family, condominium, or multifamily housing or simply converting the existing structure to condos.
This study points to the simple fact that rent control is bad for the cities where it is in place and would simply be a disaster to Seattle. RHAWA will continue to work with law makers and local leaders to find solutions to the housing supply problems in Seattle that include the community and other stakeholders. Keeping the market open allows the Greater Seattle area to keep building and exploring free-market alternatives to dangerous regulations that simply do not work.
Having a tenancy end badly is something no one wants to have in their rental business. However, it is a reality in the life of a rental property owner. The State of Washington recognizes this and in 2016, the legislature enacted a new law and provided funding for landlords to get compensation when a housing voucher tenant has damaged their property. This is a program that RHAWA helped get through the legislature and we are still helping landlords use the program to mitigate their losses.
Chartrice Young | Tenant Screening Director
When you are screening a prospective tenant, it is important to remember that in addition to checking their credit and background records, you should also verify tenancy and employment. These references will help you look past the credit score and give you more insight into what type of tenant they might be. Landlord and Employment Verification are services that are offered through RHAWA’s Tenant Screening Services. In order to provide this service, we do need a copy of your applicant’s signed rental application. Results of these services may not be immediate as we may not be able to get a hold of the reference contact on the first try.
Some property owners/managers may feel that this is something they would prefer to do on their own but just don’t know what questions to ask. Here are some examples of questions that we ask when verifying tenancy:
• Did this person make timely rent payments?
• Did they maintain the residence?
• Have you ever begun eviction proceedings against this household?
• Would you rent to this person again?
Always remember that while it is a good idea to verify tenancy with the current landlord, verifying their tenant history with the previous landlord is also important. A previous landlord may be a little more forthcoming about what kind of a tenant your applicant is because they are not worried about losing or getting rid of that person as they are no longer in a contract with this person.
When verifying an applicant’s employment the most important information that you want to verify is how long they have been employed with the place of business and what their income is. Oftentimes a company will verify whether or not a person works at their place of business but will not give you any further information. In this case you might ask to see some of your applicant’s most recent paycheck stubs and perhaps a letter of recommendation.
Some businesses will not give you any information unless they have a signed release from the applicant when verifying tenancy and employment. You can provide the business with a copy of the signed rental application. RHAWA’s rental applications are worded so that when an applicant signs the completed document they are authorizing you to check these types of references in addition to credit and background.
The rental housing industry can be very profitable and a pathway to greater wealth. However, this industry is not for everyone. Many people get into the rental business and think it’s as easy as signing a lease, handing over the keys, and then sitting back and collecting the rent.
As you are getting ready to rent out your property, one of the biggest decisions you make is how rent is paid. If you are planning on traveling for long periods of time or live far from your properties, you’ll want to explore some options on how your tenants should pay the rent.
It’s always exciting to be able to invest in the next big neighborhood. Gentrification around city centers usually goes in a pattern that starts with artists and others who need cheap housing that no one else wants. Then their friends and others interested in vibrant culture start to move into the area, particularly if there are older houses that surround the area. Then recent college grads with entry level jobs move into the area. Soon, those recent college grads become professionals bringing in more professionals into the area, particularly if there are single family houses for sale. Now the neighborhood has fairly well gone mainstream. While this process is well understood, another factor that many metropolitan areas, like Seattle, have within their expanding cities is the LGBTAQ+ community.