Seattle's Latest Insanity: ban criminal background checks

53 Replies

I just saw the latest proposed insanity, set to be voted on by the Seattle City Council next Monday.  I would be surprised if it does not pass.   This one would ban all criminal background checks by landlords of prospective tenants.  So within a year we have the law about deposit limits, requiring landlords to allow tenants to pay last month/deposit in 6 installments, then the First in Time law, requiring landlords to take the first applicant to meets their previously-specified qualifications, a proposal requiring landlords to justify any rent increases with documentation of their costs, and now this preventing landlords from checking or using criminal background as a selection criteria.  For me personally, the obvious answer is that I need to get out of this business.  However, since I've barely begun, that's not going to happen immediately.  Some say that simply by raising rent and/or credit score requirements, that will weed out a fair amount of the criminal risk.  How would you feel about this?  Do any other cities have restrictions like this?

Wow!  Those laws are insane. South Carolina is much more landlord friendly.  Hopefully the rest of Washington doesn't follow suit.  I would have insanely specific requirements considering the First come first serve policy, and nothing makes a good tenant like the need to pay the deposit in installments.  Next time one of my utilities go up, I will ask for a complete cost analysis to understand my rate increase justification.    

Northern Idaho is only 5 hours away -- and that includes stopping to let the dog pee in Moses Lake!.   We are getting nice price appreciation over here, and it is a LL fair state.

 I sent 30 years living in Tacoma.  The handwriting has been on the wall for a while.  (I am listening to Dorie Munson right now!)  My husband and I are politically conservative.  In 2010, we were volunteering for Sean Salazar for Senate campaign.  My husband marched in the MLK Day parade In Rainier Valley with the campaign.  He came home shocked.  There are many, no- holds- barred, flat-out communists in Seattle.  They were holding signs that said "Eat the Rich".  They were not joking. 

Kshama Sawant  three major platforms are Fight for Fifteen, Tax the Rich and Rent Control.  She brags that she has 2 out of three so far.  It is coming, folks.

I would be hesitant to purchase ANY rental property in an area where tenants outnumber homeowners. 

C'mon Seattle that's absurd. I reckon it's just a matter of time before landlords have to start paying tenants to live in their properties. In which case, I can't wait to move there! 

Gotta love liberalism. It's not your property. It's the governments.

Just wow!

In L.A they passed a law that employers can't ask about criminal background on job applications anymore. Since they copied the idea for the $15 hr minimum wage from Seattle...I wouldn't be surprised if the geniuses on the L.A City council that are over paid ..making $180,000 yr each plus benefits will enact this next.

From the article

"

“Nobody is more safe when people who have criminal backgrounds are unhoused,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, chair of the committee and a sponsor of the ordinance with Council President Bruce Harrell.

Ok so if Lisa Herbold is so worried about criminals getting housing..I wonder how many criminals she has invited into her home to live with her family...

Originally posted by @Ryan Evans :

C'mon Seattle that's absurd. I reckon it's just a matter of time before landlords have to start paying tenants to live in their properties. In which case, I can't wait to move there! 

I bet you are feeling even better about your decision to invest in Cleveland after reading this. Ohio seems a lot more tenant friendly. 

@Joseph M. I'm definitely not regretting going out of state when I hear stuff like this. Looks like I won't be moving to LA anytime soon either! 

We need to get released people back into society.  However, a better way is to seal records after a certain amount of time, with a history of being a lawful citizen.  Certain states do this.  

A way out of this is to reject tenants who have unexplained gaps in their residential or employment history.  Definitely reject any tenants who lie on their applications.  

Originally posted by @M.C. Nachtigal :

 For me personally, the obvious answer is that I need to get out of this business.  However, since I've barely begun, that's not going to happen immediately.  

 i wouldn't get out of the rental business....just the Seattle rental business. 

@Cody L.  liberalism?  Explain to us simple folks how THAT is liberalism when no such policies exist in ACTUAL liberal countries/states?  I have lived in liberal countries and the american understanding of liberalism is totally incorrect. 

Originally posted by @Brian Ploszay :

A way out of this is to reject tenants who have unexplained gaps in their residential or employment history.  Definitely reject any tenants who lie on their applications.  

I'm sure there are many ways "around" this if it becomes law. Targeting rental advertising to a smaller audience, requiring higher credit and income, things like that. But unfortunately that could also eliminate other potentially good renters that have had an unfortunate situation, but no criminal history. My hope would be that the city would start incentivizing landlords to accept less than stellar renters rather than passing law after law to make this particular small business all but impossible to conduct in a completely open, lawful manner. Don't get me started on the ADU situation in Seattle. 161 total applications last year in a house full of SFH and a massive housing shortage? My guess is in the 1000's of new ADU's actually went into effect sans permit because the permits are so expensive and impossible to qualify for. I'm hoping this will change sometime in 2018 with upcoming proposals in front of city council.

SF paved the way for many of these policies.  I was actually the beneficiary of a landlord that was trying to raise my rent 35% above our current rate once one of the tenants on the lease moved out.  The housing board sided with me and we actually had our rent reduced because she found that the landlord was overcharging us rent for 2 years running.  She ended up owing me $7.6k (which is going into my RE investment fund) and she is allowed to increase our rent on an annual basis at the rate of inflation which the rental board establishes.  Do I think its fair to the landlord, not really because if we moved out she would be able to get that 35% increase in rent and we would have to find something else at close to $2k/room.  

It's hard to really pick a side bc without rent control in SF, it would be musical chairs of housing amongst renters bc the landlords would be constantly increasing rents to the point that it would force everyone out.  Finding an equilibrium would be predicated on location and proximity to the cities amenities/industry.  At the same time, I agree that we should be paying more than what we are due to the original lease we signed 5 years ago.  SF is just a really bad rental market but it would be a fascinating economic study of free market dynamics in housing.

*Side note, NY has the same issue just due to the geographic nature of the bay/water where LA doesn't have this problem because they are in a giant valley and they can build all the way out to the inland empire.  With that comes terrible transportation . . .

@Tyler Shigenaga . Interesting. Personally I'm against rent control because I don't think the government should be in the business of regulating housing prices or telling landlords what they can charge. Another thing is that many high income and wealthy people actually benefit from rent control too. You hear about happening in SF and NYC and even L.A too. Makes sense since people that have lived in the city a long time have had a long term to establish their careers etc. 

Within the city of L.A is pretty much built out fully....but you are right there is still some land in L.A County ...out in the desert where it's a very long commute. 

I'm thinking distance will be less of an issue in the future when there is high speed rail and also self driving vehicles etc ....but we are still probably quite a ways away in regards to that. 

Originally posted by @Joseph M. :

@Tyler Shigenaga . 

 Another thing is that many high income and wealthy people actually benefit from rent control too. You hear about happening in SF and NYC and even L.A too.  

 Can confirm, have helped wealthy rent controlled tenants buy investment properties... typically in towns without rent control, naturally, or with game-plans in place to avoid it.

@M.C. Nachtigal It's reasons like that for which I stopped investing in Seattle years ago. You now have to take the first tenant that knocks on the door or be sued by the city, they have imposed a "rich man's tax on people who are successful", if you solicit someone who is in foreclosure or *thinks* they may end up in foreclosure it is a "criminal act" and you could find yourself in court, they have reduced the number of automobile lanes to accommodate having more bicycle lanes (Seattle is *hills*, do you know how long it takes a bicycle to climb 1st hill in the rain in friday night traffic? it's painfully slow) oh, and it rains and is grey, *a lot*. Oh well, it is just another bubble waiting to burst at this point.

Originally posted by @Ken Min:

@M.C. Nachtigal It's reasons like that for which I stopped investing in Seattle years ago. You now have to take the first tenant that knocks on the door or be sued by the city, they have imposed a "rich man's tax on people who are successful", if you solicit someone who is in foreclosure or *thinks* they may end up in foreclosure it is a "criminal act" and you could find yourself in court, they have reduced the number of automobile lanes to accommodate having more bicycle lanes (Seattle is *hills*, do you know how long it takes a bicycle to climb 1st hill in the rain in friday night traffic? it's painfully slow) oh, and it rains and is grey, *a lot*. Oh well, it is just another bubble waiting to burst at this point.

They recently tried the reducing automobile lanes to accommodate bike lanes thing in L.A...they call it a "road diet"..it backfired as residents and commuters got fed up with it...and now they are restoring the lanes. 

http://baetrice.org/new-lanes-coming-to-vista-del-...

No common sense with so many of these so called political 'leaders'.

Biking to work just is not practical in a city like L.A .


Since I am a Democrat from Texas, I found many of the comments here particularly uninformed.

It was a Texas case that went to the Supreme Court that laid the ground work for this type of law.  The Supreme Court ruled in short... disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.  The federal government had already said the historically racially biased criminal justice system in the US could have a disparate-impact.  The EEOC had started giving that guidance in the 1970s.

HUD has given guidance on a national basis about not using criminal history as a litmus test for tenants. As far as I know that has not been changed under the Trump administration. Either way it does not matter tenants could still file their own action under the Fair Housing Act if a landlord violates the act.

The ban you mention is basically the same as existing federal policy.

I'm just having my coffee, reading the forms and reading about this Seattle deal.

What is this country going to??

I consider myself middle of the road (Indepent). The liberals are going to bankrupt this country!

But really, no background checks.

I love to ask some of these "do gooder's".

My question to these folks pushing this liberal agenda ----- You are ok that your neighbor has criminal background (drugs, attempted murder, attempted rape)??????

I'm have to get to work and pay taxes🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑