Seattle Requires Landlords To Take Bad Apples . . .

63 Replies

Seattle doesn't require all landlords to accept bad apples, just those that choose to do business there.  My suggestion is invest somewhere where the local and state government doesn't hate you. They have had great appreciation which is awesome but I generally try to avoid places I'm not wanted both personally and professionally. My peace of mind, cashflow, and sense of right and wrong prohibit me from investing there, I also don't have enough money so there's also that.  

Why would you turn down the first qualified applicant?

Seems like an inability to think logically about the situation to be honest. You define your criteria. Person applies, if they meet your criteria you accept them. If they dont, you deny them. This is how you should be doing things already. 

The 'first qualified applicant', as opposed to the first applicant. It's odd they'd say that in the first place, maybe they are trying to protect the landlord from the first crappy applicant? So they're on the LL's corner? 

Accepting the first qualified applicant is a fair thing to do. If they're qualified, why would you reject them? If you have multiple applicants at the same time, then maybe you'll see one that appears more qualified than the others and you can complete their application first. But those opportunities are few and far between.

Seattle does require you to allow roommates or family members to move in, which is extremely dangerous. Do you know how many times I've rented to someone that qualified, only to find they snuck in their drug dealing lover or sex offender brother? That is a dangerous policy.

And in case anyone missed it, Seattle enacted a "winter eviction moratorium" months before COVID ever hit. Landlords can't evict during the winter months. Before the moratorium expires, you simply move on. The vast majority of Landlords will never pursue a judgment and collection, so you can just rinse and repeat every winter with a new private Landlord!

This law strengthens the city's ability to enforce real estate statutes against discrimination in housing. What will be interesting is the criteria for a qualified applicant. In terms of enforcement if several potential tenants apply some being Hispanic, African American, Asian or Transgender/Gay and they all have identical perfect credit or near-perfect credit because they are all working for the fair housing board and not real tenants and the landlord picks the white applicant who was not first to apply that would show clear discrimination under this law and the landlord would face sanctions. I did mystery shopping to test property management companies on their customer service. One area of concern we were asked to report on as mystery shoppers was discrimination by property management. This law will be effective if enforced with sting operations or they allow private civil rights groups to build cases and sue.

@Eric Weldon-Schilling thanks for sharing your opinion, but have you ever dealt with a tenant that got free legal aid for their eviction? Please tell us how much you enjoyed the experience...

@Russell Brazil how much experience do you have with Class C & D tenants? Please share...

A possible connection between the 3 articles is that the gang could find or hire acceptable applicants to rent houses for them. Then move in their gang members right before winter (when they can't be evicted) and the landlord would be screwed when the only tenant on the lease gets a free attorney to delay the eviction even more. 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Why would you turn down the first qualified applicant?

Seems like an inability to think logically about the situation to be honest. You define your criteria. Person applies, if they meet your criteria you accept them. If they dont, you deny them. This is how you should be doing things already.

Agreed Russ  law does not say accept FIRST applicant it says first Qualified .. you have Qualification standards I know for me for my few rentals I don't want to sift through 100s of apps  so I take the FIRST qualified app.. and sometimes I am busy and I just take the first reasonable app LOL.   I dont know what the deep dive into qualified means.. but if you say your qualifications are 700 plus fico that seems to cut the wheat from the Chaff right ?  Now I know in many of the Cash flow states this is simply not possible as 90% of folks with 700fico are going to own not rent.. but the few tenants I have all have + 700s..  When I had my rentals in MS the only reason I ran credit was to make sure there cell phones were being paid.. if they had a bunch of collections for those types of things they were going to be problems but 500 to 600 fico is norm in those states. 

 

Originally posted by @Eric Weldon-Schilling:

I don’t understand why helping poor people have the same access to legal services that people who can afford to pay a lawyers huge fees are able to enjoy is such a bad thing. 
we ensure that everyone gets a lawyer for criminal issues, why not for civil cases as well? I mean these people are at risk of losing their homes and everything and are frequently thrown out without any way to fight back. They have to face down experienced and soulless lawyers and eviction companies with no training and no one to advocate for them. That is just not right. Anyone going to any court for any reason should be able to have an attorney looking out for them. Both sides. If one side has a lawyer then they both should. 
and why would you not accept the qualified applicant. Unless there’s a reason or something about them that you just have a problem with and your rather someone else. Someone with a different job or who is a different race or gender. The real issue is that having to accept the first qualified applicant is that makes it harder to discriminate. 
and I really want to see what that second story about the Mexican drug cartel in Seattle has to do with anything. Was that just a throw out there some sort of anti-immigrant o racist rhetoric?

Eric I for one like you on the BP site.. as you know this is 99% landlords or investors so there perspectives are very much skewed and self serving.  Keep in mind no one needs legal representation if they simply pay their rent and dont destroy the house and dont move in their baby daddys and ex felon boy friends..  And if you dont do the crime then who needs a criminal lawyer ?  I get it there are exceptions for sure. But I think you get the point.. There is just no way that this does not backfire on the exact people they are trying to help.

 

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

Accepting the first qualified applicant is a fair thing to do. If they're qualified, why would you reject them? If you have multiple applicants at the same time, then maybe you'll see one that appears more qualified than the others and you can complete their application first. But those opportunities are few and far between.

Seattle does require you to allow roommates or family members to move in, which is extremely dangerous. Do you know how many times I've rented to someone that qualified, only to find they snuck in their drug dealing lover or sex offender brother? That is a dangerous policy.

And in case anyone missed it, Seattle enacted a "winter eviction moratorium" months before COVID ever hit. Landlords can't evict during the winter months. Before the moratorium expires, you simply move on. The vast majority of Landlords will never pursue a judgment and collection, so you can just rinse and repeat every winter with a new private Landlord!

I think there might be a few other jurisdictions that have the no eviction in the winter time.  and for sure there is winter time policies not to turn off heat and water.. thereby leaving the landlord stuck with massive bills..  Been there done that !!!

 

Originally posted by @Mark Sanders :

This law strengthens the city's ability to enforce real estate statutes against discrimination in housing. What will be interesting is the criteria for a qualified applicant. In terms of enforcement if several potential tenants apply some being Hispanic, African American, Asian or Transgender/Gay and they all have identical perfect credit or near-perfect credit because they are all working for the fair housing board and not real tenants and the landlord picks the white applicant who was not first to apply that would show clear discrimination under this law and the landlord would face sanctions. I did mystery shopping to test property management companies on their customer service. One area of concern we were asked to report on as mystery shoppers was discrimination by property management. This law will be effective if enforced with sting operations or they allow private civil rights groups to build cases and sue.

unless you meet them in person first how are you going to know they are of a certain gender race etc ?

 

As others pointed out the heading is misleading.  You do not have the accept 'bad apples'.  You do need to take the first qualified applicant.  If your screening criteria are reasonable (eg minimum income, no criminal history and good credit history), in general you should be fine.

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :

As others pointed out the heading is misleading.  You do not have the accept 'bad apples'.  You do need to take the first qualified applicant.  If your screening criteria are reasonable (eg minimum income, no criminal history and good credit history), in general you should be fine.

 I think I read somewhere WA or Seattle was proposing that you could not deny for criminal ??  not sure but I thought I saw that somewhere .. 

Nothing wrong in accepting the first qualified applicant. The place where it gets messy is what you are allowed to put as a "qualification". For example today in most places you can screen for prior evictions, restrict pets, have a credit score requirement etc. But slowly the state will insist that many of these are no longer valid. For example in CA you cannot reject Section 8 because source of income is not allowed as a screening tool. And "emotional support animals" are pushing the boundaries of what you can allow in terms of pets. In spite of all this I feel as a mom and pop landlord with single family properties proving anything is very difficult. So these things will apply more to apartment complexes or large corporate owners where you can statistically prove discrimination.

This seems like another well-intentioned law that hurts small businesses and goes to further reduce the supply of rental housing stock.  I haven't read this law in depth but some questions I would pose to those of you that seem so eager to accept this policy and others like it.  

What happens if you change your standards?

What happens if the city doesn't approve of your standards?   

What happens if your standards have a "disparate impact" upon certain communities?  

What happens if you don't "document" what your standard is?  

Why can't you have a reasonable standard that isn't "take the first qualified" applicant?  Such as, I will accept 10 applicants then choose the best 1? 

I get it, there may be answers to all these questions written in the code or case law may shake the answers out as the city starts to sue people, the point is, you are inviting bureaucratic busy bodies into your lives with this type of policy which raises the cost of doing business and ultimately those costs are passed on to the law-abiding, quality renters. On its own, this policy may not be the killer but it certainly doesn't help things, especially if your goal is to provide rental housing to people.

@Jay Hinrichs

Seattle essentially doesn’t allow landlords to screen criminal records and places restrictions on screening for sex offenders. See link. But sure, force the landlord to take the first qualified applicant excepting those things. The public, elected officials, and a few on this thread care little about law-abiding, ethical, un-bigoted landlords who might get screwed out of a year’s rent, legal fees, and property damage by those bad apples who take advantage of the system.

https://washingtonlandlordtenant.info/seattle-landlord-tenant-local-laws/

Originally posted by @Eric Weldon-Schilling:
Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs:
Originally posted by @Eric Weldon-Schilling:

I don’t understand why helping poor people have the same access to legal services that people who can afford to pay a lawyers huge fees are able to enjoy is such a bad thing. 
we ensure that everyone gets a lawyer for criminal issues, why not for civil cases as well? I mean these people are at risk of losing their homes and everything and are frequently thrown out without any way to fight back. They have to face down experienced and soulless lawyers and eviction companies with no training and no one to advocate for them. That is just not right. Anyone going to any court for any reason should be able to have an attorney looking out for them. Both sides. If one side has a lawyer then they both should. 
and why would you not accept the qualified applicant. Unless there’s a reason or something about them that you just have a problem with and your rather someone else. Someone with a different job or who is a different race or gender. The real issue is that having to accept the first qualified applicant is that makes it harder to discriminate. 
and I really want to see what that second story about the Mexican drug cartel in Seattle has to do with anything. Was that just a throw out there some sort of anti-immigrant o racist rhetoric?

Eric I for one like you on the BP site.. as you know this is 99% landlords or investors so there perspectives are very much skewed and self serving.  Keep in mind no one needs legal representation if they simply pay their rent and dont destroy the house and dont move in their baby daddys and ex felon boy friends..  And if you dont do the crime then who needs a criminal lawyer ?  I get it there are exceptions for sure. But I think you get the point.. There is just no way that this does not backfire on the exact people they are trying to help.

 

 Thank you. The two main reasons I am here are to get an idea of the mindset and opinions of investors and landlords and to provide the viewpoint of the other side or the issue Which I think far too often get sort of swept under the rug if not flat out ignored. 

I agree nobody would ever need a lawyer if people would just do what they’re supposed to or not break laws. Unfortunately, it’s just not the way things go. And whether someone has done something wrong or failed to live up to their contract, they deserve fair treatment. None of this should be one-sided.  Both side should have access to an attorney. If this landlord has one of the tenant doesn’t the tenant should be provided one if the tenant has one with the landlord doesn’t have one the landlord should be provided one  
directions are very very horrible thing. Yes there are a lot of people who are doing things that deserve to get them kicked out but a lot of people  just follow on temporary hard times that become permanent crises whenever they are saddled with cascading late fees refusal by the landlords to except any payments except the entire amount that they have because they don’t want it to be more difficult to kick them out, and eventually  evection which ruins their chances of finding anywhere else to live. Evection should be the absolute last resort can only in cases of danger to neighbors or staff. Late and non-payment issues should be resolved with payment plans and attempts to work things out including accepting partial payments. A winter evictionl van south perfectly reasonable. That’s only for three months and avoid spreading people out to the streets where they will freeze to death. 

Here's were it gets tough I am a softie..  I get a call from my PM on a Indy property he is managing.. Young couple just had a baby super cold winter cant afford heat and rent.. Would i defer 3 months then pay the balance pro rata for the rest of the year.. ME sure NP.

they stay the 3 months and just leave with no notice  no intention of paying or anything else..  So you do a good thing and get bit this is what gets landlords jaded  it might work if the tenants had the ability to honor payment plans but most don't.. most simply do not have the money..  I know its reality though.  For me its OH well  not biggee but for many of the folks on this site they are just starting out and to lose 2k in rent is a big deal for them  VERY big deal.. so that's the issue.. It would be one thing if ALL landlords had massive reserves and could just let this stuff ride but that's simply not the case.

 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Why would you turn down the first qualified applicant?

Seems like an inability to think logically about the situation to be honest. You define your criteria. Person applies, if they meet your criteria you accept them. If they dont, you deny them. This is how you should be doing things already. 

here is an example with everything else being equal: You set minimum income as 3X rent.  One applicant makes 3x rent another applicant makes 4x the rent.  I think most LL would prefer the 4x.  Here is another example again everything else is the same, you set minimum credit score at 675 and one applicant has 675 and the other has 750.  I think most LL would prefer the 750.  I can do the same with number of residences in the previous 5 years or the number of tenants that will be residing in the unit.  Even past LL checks have range of responses.

I have to admit that while I am not required to take the first qualified applicant I do, with the only exception being move-in time.  This is not because I believe the first qualified applicant is the most qualified but I do not want any appearance of favoritism/discrimination.  So we process the applicants as they are completed (note completed, not submitted), with the one exception that I already indicated.  We process only one application at a time unless something holds up that application.  

If there was no fear of accusation of favoritism/discrimination, I would process every application and take the tenant that appears to be the best tenant and not necessarily the first that met our minimum qualifications.

@Eric Weldon-Schilling

Q: Why would a landlord evict a good tenant, who respects the neighbors, the property, and the property manager....who communicates, informs the property manager when unable to pay on time, makes best efforts to make payments, honors payment plans to catch up, follows rules as specified in the lease contract, and in general operates in good faith as a partner with the propery manager?

A: They wouldn’t

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Why would you turn down the first qualified applicant?

Seems like an inability to think logically about the situation to be honest. You define your criteria. Person applies, if they meet your criteria you accept them. If they dont, you deny them. This is how you should be doing things already. 

First qualified means that they have met your absolute bare minimum requirements for consideration. Not the best for your situation. Not the safest for your business. They just met the very minimum requirements for you to consider them.

If you wanted a pizza, would you get one from the place that serves just barely passable pizza or the place that serves wonderful pizza? Both meet your bare minimum requirement, but if given the choice, wouldn't you pick the better of the two?

I'd much rather rent to the person who tells me they plan on staying for several years, than the one that tells me they're going to move after a year. I'd rather rent to the one that makes 5X income than 3X income. I'd rather rent to the doctor than the guy who makes money trading cryptocurrencies. 

Landlords should be able to choose the best overall candidate, not just the minimum candidate. 

@Account Closed     I prefer to take best qualified but I think first qualified can also work but I am not in Seattle.  I think Seattle will run into problems that hurt renters more based on other laws they have.  

The law not excluding certain criminal backgrounds except if there is a legitimate business reason may run into trouble if  challenges start to be posed on what is a legitimate business reason.  In the end what legislatures sometimes lose sight of is the fact that better screening can also  be better for the neighborhood.   

Personally what they say beyond a year I don't care because people don't always do what they say but you could make your criteria > 1 year plan.