Sean Martin | Executive Director
The statewide Source of Income Discrimination law is now in effect with the enforcement period having commenced on September 30, 2018. This new statewide law makes it illegal for rental property owners to use a source of income (i.e. section 8 vouchers, etc.) as a basis to deny tenancy to a rental applicant. Commensurate with this new regulation, rental property owners can mitigate increased financial with the opportunity to access a new landlord mitigation fund. The new fund is housed and administered via the Washington State Department of Commerce and landlords can apply for and receive up to $5,000 in damages caused by an outgoing subsidy recipient tenant.
With “Source of Income” now a protected class when renting housing, the protections cover individuals receiving benefits or subsidy programs including housing assistance, public assistance, emergency rental assistance, veterans’ benefits, social security, supplemental security income or other retirement programs, and other programs administered by any federal, state, local, or nonprofit entity.
Short-term vouchers are also included in the law’s protections, meaning that rental owners may not alter lease term offers to an applicant just because their rent voucher does not cover the duration of the advertised lease agreement. Source of Income does not include income derived in an illegal manner.
If a landlord requires that a prospective tenant or current tenant have a certain threshold level of income, such as using an income to rent ratio, any source of income in the form of a rent voucher or subsidy must be subtracted from the total of the monthly rent prior to calculating if the income criteria have been met. This is similar to what many local jurisdictions have done when passing local Source of Income ordinances over the past few years.
Under the law, a landlord may not refuse to rent to or expel a prospective or current tenant based on their source of income. Additional protections include preventing rental owners from:
A person in violation of these rules can be held liable in a civil action up to 4 and one-half times the monthly rent of the real property at issue, as well as court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The legislation also carries with it several future reporting requirements to ensure the mitigation fund is being effectively administered and how it can be improved. This process will include RHAWA representatives, as well as tenant advocates, and the housing authorities. That report will include discussion of the effectiveness of the program as well as how it can be improved.
RHAWA is hopeful that the feasibility for expanding the use of the mitigation fund to provide up to ninety-day no interest loans to rental owners who have not received timely rental payments from a housing authority will be added.
Landlords can apply for reimbursed caused by tenant using any form of a housing subsidy for physical damage to property beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent and charges associated with tenancy including late charges, non-compliance charges, legal expenses and utility charges. Applications will be made available online through the Washington State Department of Commerce. Unfortunately, landlords with subsidy recipient tenants who moved in or out prior to June 7, 2018 are not eligible to claim reimbursement from the Landlord Mitigation Program.
Heather Pierce | Deputy Director of Government Affairs
Pierce County Executive, Bruce Dammeier presents the Associated Ministries’, Landlord Liaison Community Pillar Award to RHAWA
Seattle, WA – July 26, 2018 –This morning, the Landlord Liaison Program (LLP) team from Associated Ministries, including its Executive Director, Michael Yoder, alongside Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, and Director of Human Services, Peter Ansara, presented RHAWA with the LLP’s first quarterly Community Pillar Award. RHAWA’s Board President, William Shadbolt accepted the award on behalf of RHAWA.
University of Washington (UW) Study Links Seattle Landlord Regulations to Decreased Availability of Affordable Rental Housing
Seattle, WA – July 24, 2018 – A group of researchers from the UW’s Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology are presenting their study findings on the Seattle Rental Housing market, at today’s Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights Committee.
Over 4,000 rental owners responded to the UW survey, most of whom reported owning only one rental property (RHAWA’s typical member), yet our warnings to the Seattle City Council that an increased regulatory burden would drive mom-and-pop landlords out of the market went unheeded.
Predictably, a significant number of mom-and-pop landlords have sold their property due to increased regulations, 40.29% of those surveyed reported that they have sold or plan to sell. About 1/3 of respondents reported that ordinances like First-in-Time and the prohibition of using criminal records factored into their decision to sell. In fact, 80% reported that First-In-Time placed unreasonable burdens on rental property owners, including exposing landlords to unsound financial risks.
Considering how the majority of respondents own only one unit and less than 15% raised rent in the past year compared to 83% of rental owners managing 15 - 19 units, it is fair to note that Seattle’s new ordinances have reduced the availability of affordable housing in Seattle. If lawmakers seek to increase affordable housing, villainizing mom-and-pop landlords is not the answer.
78% of rental owners reported that their perspective has been ignored by city officials, demonstrating a real need to engage rental owners as a part of the solution to affordable housing. “Alienating, demonizing, and ignoring mom-and-pop landlords only exacerbates Seattle’s housing shortage,” says RHAWA’s Board President, William Shadbolt. “RHA has always offered itself as a good faith partner with the City, to leverage its industry experience and help design practical solutions to Seattle’s rental housing affordability crisis.”
About Rental Housing Association of Washington
With more than 5,300 members, RHAWA is the State’s oldest and largest association of rental property owners, managers and investors working together to advance the general welfare of the rental housing industry. RHAWA is a not-for-profit organization, and provides its members with a full range of products and services including tenant screening, leasing forms, and education.
For more information:
Heather Pierce, (206) 905-0611 | hpierce@RHAwa.org
Heather Pierce | Deputy Director of Government Affairs
Monday, July, 9, 2018, the Seattle City Council voted to pass a new ordinance requiring the safe storage of and access to firearms. Ordinance 119267 will add to SMC 10.78 with penalties listed under 10.79. In SMC 10.78.020, an owner of a firearm must store or keep their firearm in a locked container and make certain that the weapon is inaccessible or unusable by any person other than the lawful firearm owner or authorized user. In addition to maintaining proper storage of a firearm, a firearm owner or authorized user must report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours per the requirements delineated in SMC 10.78.010A.
According to the Central Staff memorandum the civil penalties for firearm owners who have been found to have improperly stored their firearm include $500 for improper storage, $1,000 if it is determined that a firearm is illegally obtained by an at-risk person or prohibited person, and $10,000 if a prohibited or at risk person obtains the firearm and injures, causes the death of oneself or another, or uses the firearm in connection with a crime. In addition, Central Staff explained that a renter of a rental property unit who has been found guilty of the infractions delineated under 10.78 would result in similar provisions listed under SMC’s landlord-tenant provisions with other civil citations.
Denise Myers | Director of Learning
Tenant rights advocates have been fighting landlords through legislation in Seattle for 40 years. This city has many aging buildings and has been through several cycles of economic growth and expansion, resulting in poor living conditions and displacement of low-income members of the community. With each news story involving the actions of slumlords and careless property developers, the City reacts with retaliatory legislation that negatively impacts all landlords – including those who are ethical local citizens who care about their community. RHAWA does its best to defend our members from the most harmful of these measures, while supporting those that offer real benefits. Regrettably, in recent years these laws have become more harmful than helpful. Following are a few examples that Chris Benis reflects on while teaching Seattle Landlord-Tenant Law to members.
For Immediate Release
(206) 905-0609 | smartin@RHAwa.org
Rentberry and Seattle landlord file suit over Seattle ban on rent bidding websites
Seattle, WA – May 23, 2018 – Rentberry, an online rental bidding site, and a Seattle landlord are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed today by Pacific Legal Foundation which seeks to uphold the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech under the US Constitution.
The lawsuit argues that the City is violating those constitutional rights by enforcing a ban on rental bidding websites that facilitate communication between landlords and renters in the City of Seattle. It asks for a preliminarily injunction to restrain the City from enforcing the ordinance in the short term.
The ordinance, passed unanimously by Seattle City Council in March of this year, was cited as necessary for the city to get ahead of an emerging technology with Councilmembers citing Uber and Airbnb as disrupting markets without being regulated. The ordinance also claimed that rent bidding sites may conflict with the City’s “first in time” rental ordinance – that ordinance has since been overturned by courts after being challenged successfully by Pacific Legal Foundation on four separate constitutional issues.
“Rent bidding sites offer renters and landlords to settle on mutually agreeable terms, terms which could greatly benefit the renter such as negotiating lower rent or deposit. The mom and pop landlords that are RHAWA’s members know the value of a great renter. It’s unfortunate that Seattle City Council chose to view rent bidding sites as a threat rather than an opportunity for renters to negotiate with landlords,” said RHAWA Board President William Shadbolt. “Blocking innovation is not a progressive solution.”
Delaney Wysingle, the named landlord plaintiff, sites Rentberry’s platform as a way “to easily communicate with his tenants...to facilitate easier communication with both existing and prospective tenants.” Mr. Wysingle notes that he had expected to be able to advertise a rental vacancy this summer to save time and settle on a mutually beneficial arrangement with a renter, and that the ordinance has unconstitutionally deprived him of the ability to do so.
About Rental Housing Association of Washington
RHAWA is the State’s largest association of rental property owners, managers, and investors representing over 5,400 rental housing owners statewide, with over 4,000 owning units in the City of Seattle. Of those Seattle owners, 90% own less than 10 rental units. A not-for-profit organization, its mission is to advance the general welfare of the rental housing industry and provide its members with a full range of products and services including tenant screening, leasing forms, and education.
Yesterday, RHAWA transmitted the following letter to Seattle City Council and the Mayor stating our opposition to the proposed head tax for funding initiatives aimed at reducing homelessness.
May 9, 2018
Seattle City Council
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
Re: Employee head tax
The Rental Housing Association of Washington represents more than 5,300 small, independent landlords across Washington State.
Our members live and work in the City of Seattle and are good neighbors providing a vital community benefit – locally-owned rental housing; the most organically affordable housing in the city. Small, independent landlords seek stable tenancies and tenant-retention thru keeping rents below market, and by giving opportunities to people who often would not qualify for corporately-owned housing.
As small business owners, our members rely upon a stable economic environment to ensure stable and successful tenancies. We oppose CB 119250 and encourage the Council to seek a regional approach by coordinating its work with the One Table effort.
Retaining affordable rental housing under local ownership is a critical component to preventing rental housing costs from rising higher, and for ensuring accessibility to housing for all.
How does a tax on jobs harm tenants in Seattle? Every property that our members sell means one more property that is no longer available as an affordable rental unit. A loss of employment due to a tax on jobs increases the likelihood that landlords will exit the industry to offset their financial risk, and that new landlords will not invest in the city. Both mean less rental housing – the most affordable housing solution.
RHAWA supported the City’s 2016 Housing Levy because it laid out a clear plan and was a societal solution to a societal problem. However, even with record revenues, including $700 million per year from business taxes for the general fund, the City's budget director warns that the City is facing deficits in 2019 and 2020.
We recognize the need for more affordable housing in the city, but taxing jobs and discouraging the development that has been funding the city budget is not the right solution. We ask that Council focuses its efforts and resources on systemic and sustainable solutions, and that you vote no on CB 119250.
Interim Executive Director, RHAWA
Lawsuit against Seattle’s “Prohibiting Criminal Background Screening” Ordinance filed May 1
Seattle, WA – Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) and the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) held a joint press conference on May 1 to announce a legal challenge against the City of Seattle's law which bans landlords from considering criminal history when screening an applicant.
Click here to view the press conference recording.
The ordinance is based on the flawed reasoning that inequities of our criminal justice system can be solved by limiting the rights of property owners from making informed decisions about the person(s) with whom they enter into rental agreements.
“Rental property owners recognize the struggle for applicants with criminal convictions history and the industry supports measures like Certificates of Restoration of Opportunities and simple “ban the box” legislation to ensure that an individual’s full list of qualifications are considered. However, the ostensibly blanket restrictions imposed by the City put rental property owners at too high of a risk of exposure to the safety of other tenants and their property,” said RHAWA Interim Executive Director, Sean Martin. “RHAWA supports second-chance housing and educates its members on HUD guidelines and state law which restrict how criminal records history may be considered, including an individualized assessment which consider factors such as the nature and severity of a criminal conviction.”
To learn more about our position on this issue, and our supported policy solutions aimed at addressing the issue of ex-offenders seeking housing options, click the file attachment at the end of this post.
For more information contact:
Heather Pierce, Deputy Director of Government Affairs
(206) 905-0611 | hpierce@RHAwa.org