Burien City Council Meeting on Rental Regulations

Posted By: Heather Pierce (deleted) Advocacy, Announcements, Law, Management,

RHAWA Member Turnout is Crucial for Landlord Voices to be Heard in Burien City Council Meetings

Heather Pierce | Deputy Director of Government Affairs

Burien City Council Members will vote on a temporary renter protection ordinance intended to go into effect immediately after a City Council vote tonight. The Council intends to replace the temporary ordinance with a permanent "suite" of renter protections that will be drafted between now and the beginning of 2019 and likely go into effect at the end of January, 2019. Protections being considered include:

  • Just Cause Eviction
  • Rental Licensing and Inspection Program
  • Notice of Sale


Burien City Council appears headed down the same road as Seattle making operating rental property as difficult as possible for independent rental housing owners.

Tenant advocates have the attention of Council and Burien landlords must make their voices heard to let the Council know that new regulations will reduce the affordable housing stock and investment in the private rental market.

Sample Letter to Council

Email the below text to council@burienwa.gov

My name is ___________ and I'm contacting you today as an independent landlord operating in Burien to ask that you consider the perspective of landlords and the unintended consequences brought about by a policy such as Seattle's Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. It is disheartening to hear landlord input has been ignored while tenant protections proposals have been drafted, even as landlords have offered a fair compromise on many of the rental housing issues facing Burien.

There is zero data to suggest that a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance will protect Burien renters. We do have data, however, which states plainly that landlords react to this type of legislation by making it harder for applicants to qualify to ensure a tenancy is low-risk, and by raising rents to ensure that adequate financial resources are in place should problems occur during a tenancy

A new UW Rental Housing study [ 1 ] commissioned by the City of Seattle surveyed over 4,200 private housing providers and in many ways, the research findings corroborate what the private market has been informing the Council of for years:

  1. 22% of landlords reported that they increased rent, at least in part, in response to new city ordinances.
  2. About 40% of the landlords responding to the survey reported that they have already adopted stricter rental requirements in response to the City’s recent ordinances, and another 24% report that they plan to adopt stricter standards in the future.
  3. More than half of the survey respondents report that the ordinance to limit move-in fees will be ineffective or very ineffective. Only 19% believe that it is effective or very effective.
  4. 80% reported that higher property taxes were at least one of the reasons they raised rents. Increased costs of repairs were reported as an important factor for about 40% of those landlords raising rents in the past year.
  5. Landlord perspective is not considered by City officials (89% of survey respondents)
  6. Recent rent increases tended to be more common, and larger, among landlords managing large- (20+ unit) and moderate-sized buildings than among landlords managing smaller buildings.
  7. About 40% of landlords have sold, or plan to sell, property in response City ordinances governing the housing market, with long-term landlords, and those managing large numbers of buildings (Appendix B, Figure 341) especially likely to report that they plan to sell.

[ 1 ]

Seattle's "tenant protection" ordinances have not created one unit of affordable housing, nor have they incentivized owners to preserve their rentals at more affordable rates and to work with renters who have difficulty qualifying for a unit due to bad credit, poor references, or an evictions history. Why is Burien Council now considering going down this same path?

A Just Cause Ordinance is the wrong approach for Burien for many reasons, including:

  • Landlords do not terminate tenancies for no reason. It is a falsehood lacking data to suggest that landlords terminate tenancies with 20 days' notice for no reason. The risk of lost rental income, the hassle of turning a unit, and the time involved in the process are a huge disincentive to ending a tenancy unless there are issues with the tenant that cannot be resolved through negotiation.
  • Under current law, I can work with my tenant to negotiate issues of concern and give them a chance to comply with rules. Under Just Cause landlords are incentivized to issue formal 3-day and 10-day notices to comply due to the need to establish a paper trail to keep options open, which can result in bad landlord references and/or evictions filings against tenants which otherwise would not have occurred.
  • Landlords will refuse to allow tenants to have month-to-month agreements in Burien to avoid the hassles of Just Cause. This harms renters who otherwise would enjoy the flexibility that a month-to-month contract offers, such as the need to move when taking a new job or starting a family.
  • Just Cause protects problem tenants at the expense of others living next door who are good neighbors. The process of achieving "just cause" to terminate a tenancy affords problem tenants months' worth of compliance notices before they can be required to move, all the while good renters and neighbors are forced to suffer living next to someone who may be harassing, intimidating, or disrupting their lives.

A Just Cause Ordinance is not the right path for Burien. We've seen Seattle's landlord regulations fail in the real world and in court. I'm asking you today to vote no on Just Cause, and to commit to supporting working with landlords in Burien who are the people providing the most affordable housing we have in our city.

Thank you,