Interesting Anti-Landlord Ordinance Approved in Seattle

72 Replies

Curious what others think of this new pro-renter ordinance approved in Seattle.  Would this make you think twice before investing in Seattle RE?

In a nutshell, this ordinance aims to ban "discrimination by landlords against renters with alternative sources of income, such as Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment insurance, child-support payments and other assistance programs. The ordinance also will require landlords to review applications one at a time, then pick the first renter who meets their screening criteria."

Here's the link:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/...

@Ana Marie B.

I think that's just fair business. Money from child support spends the same as money from any other legal source. Whether it is always reliable is beside the point. Also, if one person puts in an application before another and is fully qualified, then the first person should be approved. If someone else is better qualified, and the landlord would rather rent to them, then the landlord should raise their standards.

@Ana Marie B. ,

Love your profile pic! Cute puppy...

It would make me consider fix-and-flip / rehab rather than buy-and-hold.

...though I suspect forcing landlords to accept people with only temporary income (unemployment) and/or unreliable income (child support) will ultimately shake out as counter productive and be removed from the law either for that reason or maybe get struck down by the courts in a legal challenge.

Those are the same regulations we are forced to work with in our jurisdiction and I choose to ignore them to protect my business and my tenants.

You will learn from experience that :  enforcement of the regulations will be rare if not non existent, reports by applicants few and far between, proving their case nearly impossible and landlords will quickly learn to operate their business as they always have.

Stupid landlords will tell their applicants why they were rejected and suffer the consequences while the smart one will operate with impunity by simply not being so stupid as to tell them they have discriminated.

Ignoring the regulations is necessary to protect your business and your other quality tenants.

This is only one example of the crazy leadership of that "progressive"/socialist city.  anytime the socialists of the Seattle city get involved you get what amounts to an attack on anyone that works hard and takes risks.  Best of luck to any of you honest and caring landlords in Seattle...

Originally posted by @Ana Marie B. :

In a nutshell, this ordinance aims to ban "discrimination by landlords against renters with alternative sources of income, such as Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment insurance, child-support payments and other assistance programs. The ordinance also will require landlords to review applications one at a time, then pick the first renter who meets their screening criteria."

Sounds quite reasonable, especially the last part - stops landlords burning applications fees trying to get the very best person. Take the first person who meets your qualifications and stop spending applicants money for no reason.

i am fine with the non discrimination laws...but this sounds like your not allow to pick the best qualified applicant from a pool of applications, but are simply required to pick the first one who meets your screening criteria....what if the next application is more qualified ?

The way I read it that they are saying that you can't collect bunches of applications and application fees, process them all, and then choose the best. You have to process (with the fee) in order until you meet your criteria. Which is only fair frankly.

How is that any less fair than colleges that charge application fees then choose only the most qualified students for admission?  To me, application fees are a method of separating the serious inquiries from the tire kickers...They're more of a screening tool and less of an income source.

If the fee is the issue, then it might be best to rank your most qualified applicants based on stated information from the application. THEN start verifying all the info. If an applicant's info doesn't check out, then the lost app fee is their own fault. Everyone else gets their so fee back.

You have a responsibility to pre-screen in advance of collecting any fees to efficiently operate your business. Your pre-screening, 9 times out of 10, should narrow all applications down to only a couple and you may then choose to do them one at a time. 

You then are following the codes of selecting in the order the applicants pay the fee. It is a loop hole but until the fee is paid you have not officially received a application. The landlord controls the  order.

Many landlords would disagree but the bottom line is if you are not doing everything possible to select the best candidates, regardless of the regulations, you are placing your business at risk.

I would rather reject applicants in violation of the codes than risk my business accepting a minimally qualified applicant since the risk of violating the code is practically non existent. 

I don't have properties in that area.  But, IMO, the only two issues I have with the ordinance are 1) not being able to select the best tenant and 2) unemployment as a form of income.

Unemployment as a form of income is RIDICULOUS.  In most areas UE is 6 months, at the longest.  And that is 6 months if they are applying for an apartment right at the beginning of their UE.  What if there is only 1 month left anyway?  Come on. 

Do you know who also has to follow anti-discrimination laws?  Companies, for hiring and promotions.  Is there also a law in Seattle that companies need to hire the FIRST candidate with all of their requirements, instead of looking for the best qualified candidate?  I'm guessing the answer is a giant no.  So why would that same idea be different for LLs?  It shouldn't.  Also completely ridiculous.

Originally posted by @Jennifer T. :
Unemployment as a form of income is RIDICULOUS.  In most areas UE is 6 months, at the longest.  And that is 6 months if they are applying for an apartment right at the beginning of their UE.  What if there is only 1 month left anyway?  Come on. 

I agree that using unemployment income, and possibly child support, is questionable. It seems to me that one of your screening criteria could be that the source of income must be reasonably expected to last the length of the lease. So if someone tried to qualify with child support when their child is 17 years and 10 months old you would consider that income for 2 months only.

It is illegal to discriminate due to some sources of income. Child support, Section 8, Social Security benefits just to name a few. There may be more.  This ordinance doesn't sound like anything to be concerned about. 

Here in Maryland Baltimore County they just tried to pass similar legislation last week. There was many unfriendly landlord provisions in there. The core part of the legislation was that a landlord would have to accept section 8 vouchers. the legislation was defeated by a vote of 6-1.

We will see more of this social engineering legislation in the future I am sure.

If section 8 is required in your jurisdiction you MUST accept it. If not, you may decline to get set up on that program. However, it is illegal to discriminate on certain sources of funds. This law does not sound "anti-landlord".

Originally posted by @David Wandel :

Here in Maryland Baltimore County they just tried to pass similar legislation last week. There was many unfriendly landlord provisions in there. The core part of the legislation was that a landlord would have to accept section 8 vouchers. the legislation was defeated by a vote of 6-1.

We will see more of this social engineering legislation in the future I am sure.

 I'm pretty surprised that in Baltimore City source of income isn't a protected fair housing class. In Montgomery County and DC it is so you have to accept section 8 

I didn't realize there were areas that forced LLs to accept Section 8. I think that's horrible. This is my first year with Section 8 tenants and there is a lot more involved than just accepting/not accepting housing assistance as income. I had to take time off work multiple times to register as a new landlord, sign off on their paperwork, bring in paperwork, etc. And the inspections, at least in my area, were substantially more meticulous than I was expecting. It reminded me of the kind of condition houses for an FHA loan have to be in. Housing of any kind should be habitable, yes. But perfect condition? That should be up to the property owner.

For me, I don't mind the extra hassle...and it was a big extra hassle...to get a larger pool of tenants to choose from.  But that was my choice in how to run my business. 

Did I underststand this correctly? The rules require the landlord to accept the first qualified applicant?

How is selecting tenants different from hiring new employees for your business? 

Should it also be required that businesses hire the first qualified applicant for a job versus selecting the best applicant from all who apply?