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Issues + Lobbying Efforts

We build relationships with policymakers to ensure a seat at the table, to advocate and protect the rights of landlords, and work towards common-sense solutions for our region’s housing needs.


Legislative Review

Read a summary of legislation enacted in 2019, and a preview what's in store, or check out the 2019 state lobbying report.


2019 Legislative Session Bills and Issues

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RHAWA Bellweather Issue // Rent Control

RHAWA Position

RHAWA adamantly opposes rent control in any form.

Background

During the 1970s and 1980s, five states and the District of Columbia adopted various forms of residential rent controls, and after decades of experience with rent controls, most have abandoned them. In fact, as of 1996, 31 states had passed laws prohibiting local governments from adopting residential rent controls.

The imposition of controls on rent is of state-wide significance and is preempted by the state under RCW 35.21.830, which mandates that controls on rent for residential structures is prohibited, with specific exceptions which primarily deal with public housing.

In 1999, a bill was introduced to remove the statewide ban on rent control. It did not receive a hearing. Subsequently, the Seattle City Council adopted a legislative agenda for the 2001 session which sought to "repeal or modify RCW 35.21.830 to allow local control of rent laws." More recently, individual members on Seattle Council have voiced support for increased authority for local jurisdictions to set landlord-tenant laws.

Arguments for RHAWA Position

Market Place Implications

By distorting the market signals needed to maintain equilibrium in the market place, rent controls discourage new housing construction during periods of shortage.

In rent-controlled cities, real estate lenders either refuse to make mortgages, or charge higher interest rates, because they view the ability of a property to generate rents, the underlying security for repayment of a loan, as impaired.

Rent control schemes based upon a "reasonable return" on investment spur existing rental property owners who bought many years ago to sell out, with the new owner able to justify higher rents due to a higher purchase price.

Economic Implications

Rent controls reduce property tax collections due to depressed assessed valuations reflecting the constrained income-generating potential of rental units, while increasing demand for public housing units.

Rents are economic incentives to attract new production of rental housing, as well as maintain existing housing stock. Rent controls lead to the deterioration of existing housing units because controlled rents rarely cover all of the costs of prudent property management, especially reserves for major repairs such as new roofing, re-painting and replacing aging appliances. Building owners, forced to defer maintenance and improvements on their investment, cannot contribute to a vital, sustained economy.

Rent controls also impose high administrative costs on local jurisdictions. Cities imposing rent controls must create bureaucracies to administer them.

Social Implications

Rent controls have many side effects, including adverse consequences, for those they are intended to help most: low-income renters. Studies have shown that rent controls actually aggravate poverty and, over time, benefit the affluent. When rent is eliminated as a basis for distinguishing among potential tenants, owners rely more upon non-price factors such as credit-worthiness.

Because of rent controls, housing shortages are prolonged, leaving many poorer people permanently displaced. They are forced to relocate to remote locales in search of housing and then make longer commutes into the inner city to work, increasing demands on mass transit and exacerbating existing transportation congestion.

Tenant mobility is reduced in rent-controlled jurisdictions. Typically, people trade up to bigger and better housing as they get older. Tenants in rent-controlled units tend to stay in them even as their personal incomes grow over the years. Over time, the occupancy demographics of rent-controlled units shifts to the affluent — as housing opportunities for new, and low-income renters are unavailable due to a lack of new supply.

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Public Policy + Principles

Equal Justice

The legal system should provide fair and equal justice to landlords and tenants alike. RHAWA believes in protecting the general health, safety and welfare of all tenants, and works to eliminate sub-standard rental units by supporting existing state law and local housing, fire and health codes. RHAWA believes Landlord-Tenant Laws should be uniform statewide.

Fair Regulatory Treatment

Housing regulations should be fair and should minimize compliance burdens and costs. RHAWA believes housing regulations should not place discriminatory burdens on rental housing relative to other forms of housing.

RHAWA opposes regulatory fees on rental housing that seek to transfer the cost of general public services, including police and fire protection, to rental property owners and tenants. Regulatory fees and user fees must fairly apportion regulatory and service costs based on the services actually provided to individual fee payers. Government should not use regulatory fees and user fees to fund general public services that are available to fee payers and non-fee payers alike.

Land Use

Government at all levels should carefully weigh the benefits of housing and land use regulations to ensure regulatory costs do not outweigh regulatory benefits. The high cost of compliance with housing and land use regulations, including permitting requirements and development restrictions, are major factors in reducing housing availability that leads to high housing costs.

Market-Based Housing

A competitive rental market provides efficient and cost effective housing to the vast majority of the population. RHAWA opposes rent control. Rent control distorts the allocation of housing resources, discourages investment and upkeep, induces unfair rent discrimination, and creates expensive and intrusive bureaucracy.

RHAWA has long championed rental vouchers for low-income persons needing housing. Vouchers offer an effective, efficient program for providing market-rate housing to those who can't otherwise afford it. RHAWA believes rental vouchers should be a significant part of any low-income housing program.

Protection of Property Rights

Respect for property rights is the foundation of a free society and economic prosperity. RHAWA believes government regulations should not unduly or unfairly restrict the rights of property owners to control the use of their property. RHAWA believes housing regulations should recognize and preserve the privacy and property rights of both tenants and landlords.

Public Disclosure + Open Government

The public welfare demands open and honest government. RHAWA believes government officials are public servants and should conduct their affairs openly and honestly. Full access to information concerning the conduct of government at every level is a fundamental and necessary precondition to sound governance of society. Public officials are encouraged to fully and faithfully comply with the Public Disclosure Act.

Support for Enforcement of Existing State + Local Housing Codes

RHAWA believes in protecting the general health safety and welfare of all tenants, and works to eliminate substandard rental units by supporting existing state law and local housing, fire and health codes. Existing laws and codes are sufficient to remedy egregious, unsafe conditions, but only if they are enforced by local jurisdictions.

Uniform + Fair Taxation

Rental housing should be taxed uniformly based on value, along with all other real estate. RHAWA strongly supports tax uniformity and opposes taxes that discriminate against rental housing, such as business taxes and regulatory fees that are imposed on rental housing to raise revenue.

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