Seattle Landlords Are the Weirdest People

In a city where apartments are harder to get than ever, landlords have all the power. Have you met these people? Have you ever tried to get one of them to call you back?


Ugh, so depressing. Between this and Charles' article about parking on capitol hill, the idea of my roommate and I trying to move to Seattle this spring is sounding worse and worse by the minute.
*sigh* @1: I don't believe Capitol Hill has ever been known for having sufficient parking.

What a nightmare! Jason, my heartfelt condolences to you and your wife for enduring such a horrible runaround experience! I'm glad you finally found a nice place in Ballard.
Seattle should not be available only to the rich. It's a shame that rental housing is a landlord's market.
How sad that a lot has changed for the worse in available Seattle housing as well as traffic since the 1990s.
@2, continued: This article worries me. The apartment building where I currently reside (outside of Seattle and King County) and have lived for the past ten years is going through massive upgrades---including my own rented unit. I'd hate to be increased out after living happily in the same place for so long.

@2 Thankfully my roomie and are specifically trying to avoid the hot spots like capitol hill and ballard and Queen Anne but I'm still really worried because even sandpoint and northgate are expensive.

I suppose it's wrong to hope that the housing market crashes again soon so people my age can have a small gamble at owning. Though technically it didn't hit Seattle as hard as it hit other places. *sigh* But yeah, I'm glad you and your wife found a good place to live Jason! I hope you guys stay there for as long as you want.
Too much money chasing too little property; it's a simply 'supply and demand' question, but people balk at increasing density on a par with Vancouver BC (look at all their hi-rise apartments compared to us).

Cheer up, there's always Kent!
I've lived in Seattle for 22 years and I've had to go through this every time I had to move. I'm lucky-my last landlady sold me the tiny little house I was renting in Seattle's last affordable neighborhood-or it was affordable; two new $625,000 houses went up right across the street from me.

If you want to stay in Seattle, find a way to buy in. Even if the housing market crashes again it won't in Seattle-it really didn't the last time.
@5, people joke about Kent but frankly for more and more people that's becoming the only option to find affordable housing for the middle income people. Well, unless you want to live in an aPodment who buys ad space in the print edition of The Stranger

But fear not; IT'S NEVER GOING TO GET BETTER!! Seriously, find one major US city that started to price middle income renters out that really changed course to any substantial level.
Apple doesn't hand out free iPhones to struggling artists just because they want one. So why is it that landlords are expected to subsidize your amazing lifestyle choices?

You want a cheap place to live? Go to Detroit, or Cleveland, or any once-great Rust Belt city where you can own your own home outright for less than a year's rent in Seattle. Be a part of something positive for a change, and actually help real struggling people that are trying to get ahead, too.

Seattle is filled with hypocritical, self-segregating racists that want to pretend to be diverse but in reality don't want to live around black people. So keep whining about mean old landlords (who made a commitment to some tough neighborhoods long before they became cool places to live).
The root cause is not a lack of price controls but a lack of housing supply in the face of increasing population. And the latter is primarily caused by restrictive zoning. Much more of Seattle is restricted, by law, to nothing but detached single-family homes (homes which used to house families with children and which now tend to house affluent singles or childless couples).

Rent control won't fix the lack of supply. If anything, it will tend to make it worse, by allowing current tenants to join home owners in escaping the natural consequences of the supply restrictions caused by local land-use regulations.

San Francisco has had rent control (fairly strict rent control at that) for decades. It is hardly an easy or affordable city to rent in.
Moreover, rent control is, in general, liberal reformism at its worst. The root problem is class hierarchy, and how some own property that others live in.

Instead of trying to paper over the root problem with regulations and bureaucracy (which fails to accomplish anything save for causing the root problem to manifest itself in different ways), it would be better to advocate policies that allow tenants to pool their resources and finance the purchase of the buildings they reside in, converting them to non-profit housing trusts.
...the author is a guy who moved to Seattle from California a whopping four years ago, and has the temerity to complain about this shit?

You moved to Seattle for the same fucking reasons everyone else has. Turns out, it's a popular place (fastest growing major American city, blah blah). You are part of the problem, kiddo. So stop complaining and thinking rent "stabilization" (why does someone have to pay in lost rent money so you can get what you want/think you deserve) is the answer, when more density and growth are the only things that are gonna save us.

Not having a BMW doesn't make you part of the solution.
The solution is to make Seattle bigger. The way you do that is with some monorails, a couple of trains, some busses and one or two more ferries.

Of course, you could always move to the Midwest. Get yourself a big ol' Victorian for $30,000 in some town of 25,000, start up a craft blog or liquor store, join the Lions club, find yourself a nice little church to join, take up duck hunting, go quietly insane...
Last fall my daughter was offered two apartments, both good and moderately priced, after looking at a dozen sh*tholes. The worst was a Wallingford landlady slumlord whose son was managing a decrepit house they'd owned for years and never repaired. She kept saying she only rented to professionals, but it was a compete tear down for 1650. 30 people showed up for the open house because the craigslist pics were probably 25 years old. My advice is go back to California. There are better, cheaper apartments in Silverlake than in Seattle.
Not sure why the CA guy and his wife are complaining about Seattle when S.F. is far worse in terms of rental costs and availability.

Of course the obvious isn't being discussed: the $15 min wage issue and liberal spending programs create an environment for landlords to increase rents.

Rent control doesn't really work or we would have seen a different outcome in S.F.

Instead the undertone is the socialist one championed by folks like Ms. Sawant that blame "corporate greed" and the "1%ers" for the high cost of living in Metro Seattle, which is BS in my opinion...
Not sure why the CA guy and his wife are complaining about Seattle when S.F. is far worse in terms of rental costs and availability.

Of course the obvious isn't being discussed: the $15 min wage issue and liberal spending programs create an environment for landlords to increase rents.

Rent control doesn't really work or we would have seen a different outcome in S.F.

Instead the undertone is the socialist one championed by folks like Ms. Sawant that blame "corporate greed" and the "1%ers" for the high cost of living in Metro Seattle, which is BS in my opinion...
One thing I learned apartment hunting recently is that the advertised rate is for a single unit that is already rented.
I remember trying to find a place in 2005 on the Eastside-- I probably called 60+ landlords and left messages that were never returned. We attempted to find a place on the Hill at that time, but the one place we applied to denied us and refused to give us a reason, then dragged their feet on returning the deposit we'd already put down (and this was a reputable property management company). We got lucky with one place, but by six months in, black mold had infested one wall so completely that we had to throw furniture away. And you're absolutely right I pulled every card I could as a tenant, because the only way it finally got dealt with was when I made an appointment for the city housing authority to look at it. When we moved out, I watched the apartment sit on craigslist for months, finally renting out at $300 less than we'd been paying.

We've been in our place in Ballard for four years and I fall on my knees in thanks that my landlord is responsive, reasonably priced for the area, and generally has his shit together. But rent goes up while pay does not (seriously, no raise in the four years, not even COL), so eventually we'll get priced out here, too.
This will definitely improve when the landlord has to pay his landscaper $15 an hour.
@11: Being a landlord is a terrible pain in the ass that few reasonable people would put up with. With Seattle's housing booms of the last few decades, all the reasonable people cashed out, leaving only lazy flakes and property management corporations. So, the renting experience sucks.
If you have limited intelligence but know how to talk to people you are well suited for the sales side of real estate. If you have limited intelligence and no social skills you handle rents and leases. At least that has been my experience. Dumb, lazy and unskilled. When the next downturn hits they will be on the side of the highway looking for help.
echoing what @12 wrote. Also, all the "weird" landlords described sound like ordinary Pacific Northwesterners to me
we have some of the most stringent tenant right bills and landlord tenant acts in the civilized world.

Awww. Aren't you cute?

Did you know that there are attorneys who actually specialize in landlord-tenant issues in other parts of this country and especially in other parts of the "civilized" world? That's because in New York, and California, and the UK, and France, a landlord fucking a tenant over is actually serious business that can result in significant court action. In Seattle, there are no attorneys who specialize in landlord-tenant law, because there are no actionable offenses a landlord can attempt other than throwing your stuff onto the street without cause.

Know what your recourse is if your landlord is a shitheel in this city/state? You can move out. If you had a lease, you can go to small claims court to get your deposit back. That is it. Period. And that's why you can't even find an attorney to represent you in a dispute against your landlord, because there's no money in it.
There's not much cheap, good housing out there -- and what there is tends to be underpriced and snatched up quickly by the hordes of people looking for it.

You have to compromise either on location, space, quality, price or the amount of time you spend looking. Most people do not get a better than average deal.
Excellent article and so spot on. Thank you!
From where I sit in south Seattle, the north-end majority-white surcharge seems vastly overrated.
It is a depressing but typical tale in a city that is adding tens of thousands of high-wage jobs. And the norm in cities with rent control is to hire an apartment broker. It is virtually impossible to find an apartment on your own in New York.
Oh, and dear @ 12 ~ I've been here since 1974. I suppose I'm also "part of the problem", but the reality is it sucks to be a renter in the City of Seattle. I read this article twice and not once thought the writer was complaining, just telling the story. I can guess what you do for a living and wish you the best of luck when the real estate market crashes...again.
Between the rent hikes, the bus service cuts, and the slave wages, how does Seattle expect anybody to be able to afford to take the jobs of cleaning floors or cooking french fries, or anything that doesn't involve an advanced degree? They're jobs that still have to be done, but nobody can afford to work them.
The problem with rent stabilization is that you would have never found a place 4 years ago. And with the damper it puts on construction you certainly wouldn't find a place now.

You need to be fighting all of the NIMBYs that reduce supply in this city. Every planning department meeting is filled with owners, not renters. Sure, you can't afford the new Belltown apartments they're building. But who do you think is moving into the place your landlord is remodeling? The same people who might have moved into new apartments if we had more of them.
@31, you put it very well indeed.
@11 now who needs the Whaaa-bulance? Your lack of general empathy for the struggle - which was well-told and not whiny - is "impressive".
We rented for years, and and had our fair share of weirdo landlords.

One time we ended up with overlapping leases for one month as we changed apartments, so we moved most of our stuff a few weeks early. We went back to the old apartment, and the landlord had allowed the subsequent tenant to move their stuff into the apartment 2 weeks before we stopped paying rent! He claimed we had "abandoned" the apartment.

Another landlord kept $1 of our deposit for a burnt out light bulb in a closet.

So I have sympathy for renters. But I have to say, good old Jason sounds like a bit of a wacko. You know that guy who says that every girlfriend they've ever had is a psycho? But it's them that's the common denominator. Jason, you are the common denominator.

A few years ago, we managed to buy our house, and rent out the (very nice!) basement apartment. Remembering our days renting, we try to be super responsive, and keep everything working well. We try to keep rent about $100-200 under market, on the theory that happy tenants are good tenants.

All that said, I think rent control is a bad idea. Weird market distortions crop up, and it just drives up the price of the remaining stock. I think the solution is:

1)Relax zoning. We should really allow more density, more big apartment buildings

2)Require new developments to include substantial numbers of modest units. Want to build 50 luxury apartments/condos? You have to build 50 "normal" apartments at the same time.
I do sympathize to a degree (the frustration of not being able to get a simple callback), but I notice that you were looking in pretty much the most sought-after, close-in neighborhoods (Capitol Hill, Fremont, Ballard). Nothing in the Central District, or the south end?
management company will march as may people thru as they can and pocket your app fee welcome to seattle..they will also treat you like crap to get you to move quickly, they make more money re-renting than keeping you there
Rent control never works, all it does is cause corruption when the people who can afford to pay the landlord a bribe for the rent controlled apartment, offer him an extra 2 grand. That Ballard place you moved into, a friend of mine who recieves social security applied for it also, and was blown off similarly to the way you were at those other places.
You do not mention whether you looked in the south end. Perhaps you did, but you only refer to neighborhoods north of the canal, which suggests that you felt entitled to live in those areas because that is what you like. I used to feel that way, until i went to buy a house and I realized that people moving here had priced me out of those neighborhoods forever, and that was many years before you arrived here. Perhaps it would have been difficult down here in the south end too, but EVERYBODY wants to live in Ballard, so I am not surprised.
The people you were meeting (or not meeting, as the story goes) were most likely not landlords, but property managers. Perhaps their slovenly appearance might have clued you in that these folks aren't the ones sitting on a couple million in property.

Since these folks are usually being squeezed by the actual landlords, did you ever think about bribing them? The people that are getting those nice apartments instead of you probably thought of that. You'd be surprised what slipping $50 to someone who could use it will do to their willingness to help you. That's the reality of getting things done in a crowded city that doesn't give a damn about you.
@katrat, the south end will eventually become the *new* Ballard / Fremont - the next hip and happenin' place to live.
@39: Congratulations on being on the leading edge of South Seattle gentrification.
@39 Nailed it. If you want to live in a neighborhood that's already cool you're gonna pay. If you want affordable rent then you gentrify some other poor schmuck out of their neighborhood and make it cool yourself.
What did I tell you.

Tax increases went out, and now the rent increases come.

Add to that, the payments that the owners must have taken out to rehab their property, and viola!

Trundle your ass back to California, surely it is cheaper there.
@44 I did not get an "entitlement" vibe from the above story, so you've already lost me.
I was a property manager for a house in Kitsap for a few years. I got a couple in there that were just amazing and I would bend over backwards, as much as my bosses would let me, for them. They paid their rent digitally and on time, they fixed the small problems they found, they told me about big problems and then were available for me to bring in a handy-man at almost any time. It was wonderful.
Then I had to buy them a dishwasher and to keep with the look of the kitchen I ordered one in brushed steel. My handyman installed it when it came in and he can be a bit of a joker. It had the saran wrap-like cover on the front and one of the renters was a little aghast that I bought them a blue dishwasher. He told the renter it was new 'blue steel' and very trendy. I got a voice mail from the renter in near tears about 'blue steel' then I got another when the partner came home and peeled off the blue. Wish I had saved those voice mails. They made the job worth the rest of the bullshit I had to deal with in the company. I miss those renters. Good people, they were like friends to me.
Go to Detroit, or Cleveland, or any once-great Rust Belt city

You mean cities with 17-20% unemployment rates (and near 30% for people under 30)? Yeah. Great plan.
If you want to live in the "trendy" part of town and can't pony up $1300 to $1500 as a minimum with two incomes, maybe you are setting your sights too high? Move to the south end and work on getting a better job
Christ. The term gentrification is now another rhetorical cudgel for stupid reactionary douche bags. It's basically meaningless.
As a Seattle renter, I found Jason Thornberry's article so true it was painful, yet I laughed at his wonderful descriptions of the various landlords he and his wife encountered. I loved the paragraph:

"What began as a slowly escalating cacophony of construction and destruction—famous local record stores becoming banks, every street obstructed by people in orange suits—is spreading like herpes into the living spaces of Seattleites not wealthy enough to get out of its way. The naked, bashful truth is that you shouldn't have to be rich to live in Seattle. Or, I should say, that you didn't used to have to be rich to live here. Why haven't we legislated some form of rent stabilization by now? Or is Seattle just going to become a playground for new-to-town software engineers and their freshly painted BMWs?"

Why hasn't some kind of rent control been initiated? In any event, great piece Jason Thornberry.

G. Wenkle, Seattle
So true. I've had similar experiences over the years. Even worse is trying to get back into a rental in Seattle when you're still out of state. I've rented 3 places in Seattle sight unseen. 2 were great - good managers, clean buildings, rent was decent at the time and I knew how lucky I'd gotten. One turned out to be a hellhole - black mold, sewage backing up into the tub, asbestos popcorn ceiling with glitter falling down every time the heavily overweight woman above walked across the room. Luckily I refused to sign some paperwork for the landlord and he evicted me the day after I after I arrived, and Public Storage/Motel 6 turned out to be a much better landlord until I found a decent place.
I have another wrench to throw into the rental monkey-works; are all the new buildings around here seismically sound? Heh...betcha my last dollar they're not.
Oh for fuck sakes, another article blaming tech workers and not mentioning foreign "investment". You know why 6 figure earning tech works are throwing crazy amount of cash at rent? Cause rich foreigners are throwing a crazy amount of cash at house in hopes for a green card. 2k for rent doesn't look so bad when compared to house prices. But the stranger still wont say a fucking thing about this.
Seriously, why the fuck is it either/or. Seattle has three problems:
1) no fucking rent regulations, as a renter you are shit. This needs to change, both BC and Ontario limit how much rent can be raised each year, we can do that.
2) density- to all those bringing up San Fran as a reason against rent regulations, well have you been to San fran cause it's a hell of a lot denser then us. Seattle needs more housing (so stop bitching about views and having you favorite dive turned into apartments)
3) forgien "investment"- this fucked up Vancouvers and Torontos housing make so bad that Canada cancelled their forgien "investment" immigration visa. Guess where that monies going now.

We're all getting fucked by the 1%, so let's not divide into a class war between artists vs techies.
@ #54 ~ show me one time the author of this piece blamed "tech workers" for the idiocy of tenant law in Seattle, 'cause that never happened.
@53, All the new buildings meet the current seismic codes. Whether those seismic codes are sufficient is another question. The older buildings? Oh, hells no! Anytime I'm in Pioneer Square I hope and pray that the next big one doesn't hit. That whole end of town will be a big ol' pile of bricks.
Having opened up and worked on enough old houses and buildings, anytime I hear someone say "They don't build them like they used to." I have to say Good!
@ 57, you say, "All the new buildings meet the current seismic codes." Can you show me some stats on that? I mean, I get it, I live in an old[er] building too, but I'm not buying that the cheap stuff being constructed on Capitol Hill right now meets seismic standards. Got a link to prove it's gonna take good jolt? I would love to read it. Thanks.
Thank you. After being born in the Pacific Northwest and moving for grad school (in the Midwest no less), this article demonstrates why it is not a good idea to move back - as much as I love home. After following the debates, and the horrible lack of leadership on sensible public transit (yes, I'm talking about the monorail expansion debacle, and the resulting government light rail debacle), I'm realizing that I might need to say goodbye to my dreams of moving back to the Pacific Northwest.

At #11, I understand the other side of the perspective; my sister owns rental property in Washington. However, as a good tenant who has actually had previous landlords happily welcome me back - and prioritize my application - if tenants feel like they are being screwed by the institutional biases of the laws (which are reflected in the attitudes of most landlords) and market factors, sorry we're not interested. It's all about the market. I'm not moving back home!
@ 57 ~ this is all I've got [about the way it should be] and if anyone can show me any evidence that the stuff being built fits any of these criteria, I won't have nearly as big a problem with the cheap-ass stuff as I do today.

I was in San Francisco after one of the "big ones", and everyone with older building was spending a ton of money to make the properties safe. Haven't seen any of that in Seattle, and I think some of the stuff being built so quickly in Seattle right now looks like absolute crap. Just sayin'. Would love to see some evidence this is not the case.
OH GREAT...dead link ^ . Thanks, Obama. But seriously, the criteria for building in a region known for it's seismic it really being built safely? This gal would like to know.
First of all, you are an idiot. There are so many poor-me sentences in this post it it god damn infuriating to read. Educate yourself on landlord tenant law and hold people accountable.

If you are truely this fucking stupid, but you were asking for help, that'd be one thing. I (or Google) could tell you the law to remedy almost every one of your complaints. But NO- you just want to complain- even when you were late to an appointment cause the BUS was at fault, even when you REALLY thought you deserved it. You said nothing about putting down a holding deposit. A landlord can smell your entitlement a mile away and does NOT want you for a tenant.

Waaaa- construction! BooHoo- flood lights! :( we missed our date! They took our screening fee! Our building doesn't want us! We assumed Bob was psychic and read our minds! Nobody likes me! (Oops, nobody calls me back)

And if you really turned in your notice to vacate on the last night in your current place (as you wrote), I hope 10 more landlords take your money. If you don't follow the law, how the fuck can you come on Slog and complain/bitch/whine about others not doing so. Fuck off.
great discussion! And the illustrations are awesome! I still remember my years as a renter vividly, and my own awkward interactions with landlords.

First thing that comes to mind: i never ever ever ever got a deposit back. I got a slew of excuses or no response, but never got a damn deposit back ever.

More to the author's point, I agree the landlord persona is quite complex and worthy of study. Something about property ownership brings out the worst players, but as slovenly and out to lunch as they may appear, they are keenly aware of the power they hold. The exterior appearance is simply a function of their knowledge that they don't have to impress anyone, at any time. They are (in mafia terms) "made" and the rest of us are schmucks.

Further expounding: oftentimes a landlord will have a large portfolio that includes a spectrum of products from low end crap (which most on this post are pursuing) to their own personal bevy of properties like a house or two in palm springs. So it may seem that they themselves are crappy and unkempt, just as the place they are showing you is crappy and unkempt, but this is usually not the case. BTW mention palm springs to any of these characters and you will get a conversation started in no time, it is Valhalla for Seattle landlords.

Another factor, and this is a big one: it is often families who own properties, and over the course of time it tends gets handed down rather than being liquidated. So the outcome is that family members control properties that they really don't have much connection to, they are just looking to get whatever they can from it. Often times they don't even live in Seattle at all, they moved out of Seattle in the 70's to Longview or Silverdale or Tri Cities or some such delightful place. So the attitude you are getting is coming from an entitled descendent of some old bastard that bought at the right time, back in 1951 or something.


If you question that new buildings aren't built to withstand a big earthquake you are wrong. Read the seattle building code and see what it requires. Look at the dpd website and research any new construction, look at the plans and the structural calculations. That's all public info online.

You might not understand much but that doesn't mean the building isn't safe. It's very easy to say buildings are cheap and will fall down in a big earthquake - but it just reveals your ignorance to those who know more. Construction costs have never been higher and the seismic requirements of the building code have never been so stringent. No new building is cheap!
Jason, I think you have a million-dollar idea with the whole cat carrier thing. Let's go to PetCo tomorrow!
introverted freaks
Is it that introverts are freaks or that freaks become introverts? Fucking asshole. My guess is that people wouldn't rent to the author because they saw he was a dickhead from a mile away.
Everyone mentioning rent control should get a little information before they suggest that. The City of Seattle claims that it's against state law to have rent control, and since most city councils are beholden in some way to developers (who are often property managers), they're not going to try to change that. There will never be any rent control in Seattle.

Building more apartments won't help -- that's proven by the fact that apartments have been built like mad the last few years and rent has soared. The people moving into Seattle and renting those apartments can afford to pay $2,000+/mo, and owners of older apartment houses are selling to developers who build those expensive units. As far as I can see, no one's building $900/mo apartment buildings.
Everyone claiming that "they could afford the south end!" hasn't tried to find an affordable apartment in the south end lately. It is the exact same story - submit your application, pay your fee, sorry, someone else with a bigger bribe got the apartment.

First I was priced out of my parent's eastside neighborhood.

Then I was priced out of the U-district.

Then I was priced out of the CD.

Then I bought in Burien. I will never be priced out again.
Dear Jason,

I have two words for you: seller's market.


PS you could always live in Tacoma. Very affordable, good transit to and from Seattle, highly underrated city.
If you want to live in a retirement community for millionaires and billionaires, move to Seattle.

If you enjoy living in a residential community that's being transformed into a soulless business park, move to Seattle...or just live in a city that has completed the process - San Jose.

If you want smug, self-important neighbors that you'll never get to know, move to Seattle.

If seeming rather than being is your favored self-expression, move to Seattle.

The creative class has been driven out of the city along with the working class that once made Seattle a desirable place to live.

If your mind, heart and soul are still functioning, please don't move to Seattle. Move to a city that still has its youthful spirit and creative drive, that is still open to the possibilities and to the process of becoming and that remains open to real change.

Seattle is stagnant, old, segregated and predictable. It's going to be this way for a while, possibly a decade or two.

Give the rot that's taken hold in the heart of the city time to run its course.

In the mean time, find more fertile soil to sow the seeds of your life. Find a city where your years will not be wasted.
Wow @63. How do you read anything on teh internets without your little brain just shattering into a million pieces?
Doesn't sound like the landlords are getting rich either.
I use to live here and lived in Portland for a few years, and recently moved back. One major thing that Oregon state has is that the landlord cannot accept more than one application at a time. If the applicant meets all requirements they cannot deny them the apartment. They have to wait till the first application is denied before accepting another, and once that is accepted, again, cannot accept another. This is they way it should be.
How about some actual information in this discussion:

•Landlords feel the laws are imbalanced in favor of tenants, tenants feel the opposite, so the truth probably lies balanced somewhere in the middle. Imagine that! The debate will never end, but at least some facts will help. You should have received this information from your landlord when you rented. If not, the landlord is in violation of the laws. Cause them some trouble. If you did, read it.……

•Zoning of the Single Family Residence zones, even though covering 60%+ of the city, is not the problem restricting development of new housing units: Seattle DPD estimates that 223,700 new housing units could be added under existing zoning:… housing-units-and-jobs/

•There is no monopoly of the housing supply in Seattle. Land holding is very broadly dispersed. Much of the rental housing stock is held by mom and pop operations, so you may have to suffer interaction with the unhip, uncool, un-groovy people described by the writer. I feel your pain (really- go fuck your smug hipster self).

•There is a great deal of pleasant and modestly priced housing in Seattle and the inner burbs, just not on Capitol Hill. This fact does not constitute a violation of your civil rights or some great evil the government must address. It just means that a lot of people want to live on Capitol Hill and that drives the prices up. If you don’t want to pay the price, you may have to take a bus, and live in proximity to the unhip, uncool, un-groovy, or, heaven forbid, even close to brown and black people. I would love to live on the south slope of Queen Anne with a killer view, but it aint gonna happen.

•Rent control is burdensome and ineffective in achieving the goal of moderating rents. Do some reading and research if you believe otherwise. There is a rich source of information that can be accessed on the Interwebs.

•The vast majority of housing in Seattle was created by and is on the private market. This is not going to change until The Revolution comes down, or whatever. Deal with it. Get a better job than retail or server or barista. Grow up.
Sorry, I could not get the links to paste in the above.

Search Seattle DPD CAM604 and go from there.
Most intelligent comment: @23, keshmeshi

Thank the Stranger. They have been leading the charge to tear down all existing cheap housing in the name of their god 'high density'.
My wife and I are moving back this month after doing 5 years in NY, and even more shocking than the rent increase has been reading the ads for apartments. Who are these people? Why do they hate pets so much? Why do they all want to maintain rights to one room in your home that they use as a private workshop? Who would agree to that? And my favorite- this is becoming a trend and I've seen it in multiple ads now, they end the ad by saying "minimal alcohol consumption on premises." WTF! Freaks!
@23 keshmeshi and @78 sgt.doom: Ouch! Thanks for the warnings, both of you. Hopefully, after ten + years in the same place (my happiest these last few years), that won't be my situation anytime soon or ever.
What @36 and @39 said.

I am so very tired of hard-luck stories from people who wouldn't even read a listing for a rental in Rainier Beach or Delridge.

Sure, the CD and Columbia City aren't as affordable anymore. But you can still absolutely find less expensive neighborhoods south of I90.
How many empty houses , apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes are there in the area? I bet enough to house the Permanently Fucked-With. --- (N).
Seattle is Faux-Progressive: Barcelona puts it to shame.
You nailed it: a lack of professionalism and basic respect (right of first refusal? has anyone heard of this?) Akin to the real estate deals I've seen finalized in Seattle coffee shops - I literally overheard, without effort, an agent settling a house deal and looked over to see a young couple writing a check for over $14,000 ( know the figure because I overheard realtorman state it indiscreetly).

But the political issue that really must be addressed is increasing rent for not-so-increasing quality or benefit. Price per square foot please, based on value not based on the deep pockets of people who don't know better! There is a difference between drywall and real plaster... for example.
I was "economically" evicted from Seattle as well. 57% increase in rent in fewer than three years.. the last rent increase was 9 months after the previous. I now live in my parent's basement.
I've been a renter and a landlord and I can tell you, being on the landlord side isn't a swim in the park. While the landlords depicted in this article clearly are not shining stars I can assure you every landlord out there has dealt with far worse in terms of potential renters.

There are just a lot of weird people out there, and when you start interacting with random people in the public you get a good, close up look at that fact.

I live in SF and I don't claim to have any answers or great understanding of the housing costs here other than that I used to rent a small studio apartment in my house and I rented to the same guy for 10 years with no issues. I kept his rent reasonable because he was a good tenant and I wanted him to stay so that I didn't have to risk finding another and getting screwed.

He became ill and had to move out because the space couldn't accommodate his needs any longer. I tried renting out again and had such a traumatic experience (and I mean that, not bad, traumatic) that after evicting the next guy at great expense (including not only lawyers, payoffs and repairs for damages) that I took that space off the market even though it meant a significant hit to my income and a severe tightening of my belt.

The only reason I was able to allow the first tenant to not experience larger rent increases over the years was because this was a space in my house and I was gradually making more money at other endeavors so that I could afford to rent out at a little below market. But if it were an investment property I wouldn't be able to as the costs of maintenance does not go down. The main problem with rent control is that it doesn't control the market or the landlord's expenses, just what they can charge a tenant.

If I have a small building with five units and two have long term occupants and are paying significantly below market, and my expenses keep going up, then the next people to rent those other three apartments have to make up that difference.

I rent out another property but it is on the east coast, in a place where the rental laws aren't so far skewed in favor of tenants. I have had only one problem with a tenant there and luckily the law allowed us to deal with it in a way that didn't nearly bankrupt me as the issue in SF did. Since it is so far away I use a property manager and I don't know what property managers in Seattle are like, but mine on the east coast is fantastic. Highly professional, competent, and worth every penny just for the peace of mind and not having to deal with tenant issues from across the country.

I don't make much off that property but I see it more as an investment than an income source.

As for why landlords are so anti pet... because pets cause damage, increase wear and tear, and can lead to all sorts of problems from annoyance to neighbors to flea infestations.

After I had to evict the guy in SF I had to completely tear out the rugs and flooring because his cats did so much damage. I still rent to people with pets but I ask for an extra pet deposit to cover the excess wear that they cause.

I've been a tenant and I recognize that tenants need certain protections, but SF has one less unit on the market in an otherwise undestocked market because average, run of the mill landlords are so skewed against under the current laws that it isn't worth it to me to rent out. I have heard far worse horror stories than my own, even resulting in people losing property through no fault of their own due to the cost and time it took to evict tenants who didn't pay rent. That should be an no brainer to be able to evict a tenant who just doesn't pay, but so many loopholes can drag the process out that the income loss is too much to bare.

Something needs to be done about raising rents, but just making landlords not charge as much without addressing increases in other costs is not the answer.
Rent control restricts growth, since Seattle wants growth it will never happen.

Seattle will always do section 8 housing, affordable housing and state housing as the "solutions" to high rents. They will slowly stretch what it means to be on these systems and spread the housing across the city to avoid ghettos. It's actually a better system than most, but still just a bandaid to the real issue.

Apodments are a real problem. By accepting those you actually lessen the incentive the state to stretch the qualifications for affordable housing.

The banks are the real issue actually.

They demand improvements by property owners who have to comply with the note holder. These improvements are calculated based on rent trends to such a degree that the rent increases from the cost of the improvements plus the new land value tax roughly equals the rent increase.

Meaning, rent increases are directly enforced by banks, knowingly, ahead of time.

A minimum wage then (sorry tangent alert) does little but funnel money from business owners to banks via the rental market.

Read up on Henry George. The solutions are all there.
A solid summation of the problem and direction for the solution:…
@23: I represent tenants. You are correct that the rules are totally in favor of the landlord, but that also means when the tenant prevails, they get their reasonable attorney fees in addition to their damages.
I'm a Landlord, and #90, you're wrong. With Seattle's Just Cause Ordinance and the tenant leaning courts, the rules favor the renters. If a renter doesn't pay his rent, you can't even start en eviction until you prove their not in the military and on assignment in Afghanistan, even if you meet them face to face every week. And even when a renter doesn't defend themselves in the Unlawful Detainer action,(thereby agreeing that they are in default) it still takes up to 2 months to make them leave.

In addition, I'm one of the few who respond to every single apt. inquiry, and I run 50 units in 10 buildings, mostly Capitol Hill. I offer up appointments, and prospects fail to respond about 40% of the time. WTF? You want to see my apt, but don't feel like responding when I agree? (And at least half didn't actually read the whole ad anyway), then often 1 in 4 blow off the appointment. So it cuts both ways. It's a crazy market. We have the best job market in the country. Seattle built 17,000 apartments in the last 18 months, but 20,000 people moved here. However, none of this is an excuse for the landlord or the prospect or the renter to be unprofessional, rude, lazy, uncommunicative or disrespectful. And if you think landlords are bad now, try putting in rent control. The real market will find a way around any artificial barrier.
This sort of shit is among the many reasons why I'm leaving Seattle in December after 10 years here. I'm not going to wait for the market to fuck me like it's fucking so many others.
82. The answer to the problem is not to exile the poor out of central Seattle. There's a lot of valid reasons why people don't want to live in Rainier Valley or the CD.
36 39 82. Also, wasn't the idea behind moving to Seattle and building density for Seattle so that people could live close to work and the places they want to go? Isn't that the idea behind promoting urban living? And now you're telling them to fuck off out of town and live miles away from where they work etc? With our public transit situation worse than it's been in a while with no imminent improvement in sight? In neighborhoods with few amenities (mostly poor quality amenities at that) and crime problems?
Jason Thornberry should be looking for a new job as well as an apartment. This article is total bullshit. I am sure he would be the first to complain with the “they never fix anything around here” crowd if there was no remodeling. There are plenty of excellent decent ok and awful property managers, owners or landlords just like any other profession, like journalism perhaps. To write an article like this to enforce or create a negative stereotype is appalling, especially in the current rental market.

WTF is this shit? “So many of the landlords we met over our summer of searching have been these confusing, weirdly dressed, introverted freaks, like escapees from some human pain-tolerance experimentation facility.” Imagine if anyone were to speak of any other group in these terms . . . like tenants for instance!

There are plenty of reviews on or which might give a person a better picture of tenant relations rather than the one this article paints.

When shopping for a Yugo vs a Lamborghini you might encounter a different class of sales personnel.

Seattle’s rules and regulations are more like a monopoly game than anything realistically fair to the tenants or the owners. Why not start with fixing these ridiculous laws?

You know there could be a TV show like hoarders or cops which shows the world of ruin caused by bad tenants and slumlords. We all have our horror stories, some more than others.

What I would like to point out more than anything is that it only takes a few to ruin it for everyone else. Asshole pet owners, asshole apartment managers and owners, asshole tenants, asshole applicants, the world is full of assholes but you know there are some decent people in the world too. Somehow I doubt the Stranger is going to print an article on all the decent, fair, nicely dressed, well-adjusted and friendly property managers who do answer their phones, emails and excel in every aspect of their job and the expectations of their customers. So FUCK YOU Jason and whoever didn’t fire his fucking ass for printing this drivel. I am sorry to have given you any credibility by commenting on your shit.

Why Landlords In Seattle Are The Weirdest People

9 Common myths about landlords:

1) Building managers receive free rent: Wrong. Most building managers are considered part time. We, like you, must pay rent. It comes directly out of our pay. For many, this pay does not even cover rent, only a portion of it. Therefore, many of us have a job in addition to managing an apartment building.

2) Can I meet you at your office? No. We do not have an office. Our home is our office. We are on call 24/7 and do not have a home separate from our work. Please keep this in mind when you speak to your building manager. Also, keep in mind, many of us have other jobs, work our 8 hours and then come home only to be at work again.

3) You are the boss: False. Building managers have three masters: The Tenants, The Management Group, and the Owner (i.e., 3 types of politics going on at all times). Keeping all three happy, and all at the same time, can be challenging but it is our job. We rarely are the one in charge of anything, simply pulling the levers of the machine to keep the three decision makers above happy.

4) All you do is collect rent and show apartments: False. Not that I could ever sum up a single month of duties, here is a list of duties in a common month of being a building manager in Seattle (did I mention this is considered a part time job? And many of us have other full time jobs?). Collect rents, deposits, accounting, late payments, 3 Day Notices, Non-sufficient funds/returned checks, Notices Of Intent to Vacates, Final Walkthroughs, Adding a Roommate, Removing a Roommate, Service Animal Agreements, Schedule Vendors, Give 2 Day Notices to Enter, Maintain Calendar, Follow up on vendors, Perform cleaning, painting, repairs, plumbing, unclog sinks, reset toilets, caulk, sheetrock repair work, answer phone calls (daily), answer emails (daily), answer texts (daily), schedule apartment showings, show apartments, pick up trash (daily), remove graffiti, remove feces (dog and even human at times), buy supplies, leaf blow, prune, sweep, water plants, clean common areas, halls, relay all pertinent information to management group, meet with applicants, send in packets for processing, relay approval/disapproval, lease signing, deposits, paperwork, make copies, give tenants copies, post office, read electric meters, send in electric forms, call utilities to resolve issues, handle noise complaints, issue warnings to those violating their lease agreement, maintain documentation of events, deliver paperwork to office, relaying all necessary information between vacating, incoming tenants, the office, implementing new policies, posting notices, answer questions, questions, and more questions… doing all of this while keeping all three masters on the same page and happy.

5) We Are Always Professional. False. We work where we live. We are human beings. We fall in love, we fall out of love, babies are born, people we know die, we have good days, bad days, we get aches, we get sick, some of us like to do yoga, swim, read books, perform in plays, create art, start a business, run around with scissors, and yes, there are even some who do drag shows. We, like you, sometimes…after coming home from a long 8 hour work day, like to relax, wear sweats, drink a beer, and try to maintain some sense of home in an environment where, at any minute, there lay the possibility of the phone ringing, demanding we jump to let someone in who locked themselves out (at best) or a deluge of water has begun in some unit (at worst) that may demand our presence from a few minutes, to a few hours, to a few days. Running the potential of screwing up our schedule for the month and not seeing the next moment of relaxation as a possible reality. So, yes, if you are expecting us to ALWAYS be professional, it is simply not possible to do 24/7. And, if you are honest, I do not really believe you desire a building manager who is professional 24/7, can you even imagine what that would be like?

6) Free Equipment? No. We use our personal cell phones, our personal computers, printers, and other equipment. When our computer fails completely, wiping out all of our information/forms/letters, we are not provided a new computer. We must pay for it out of our own pocket, despite the fact that a vast amount of wear and tear on our personal equipment comes from duties performed in this position. Having had this occur to me, having to start from ground zero and rebuild all of the forms, letters, and databases stored on my original computer…well, it is not easily done or easily explained as to why the hiccup in smooth operations is occurring until normalcy is restored. There is a “phone stipend” we receive each month, usually around $30 per building. I have a business line for my buildings. This does not even cover the cost of the phone-line, much less the Internet required to perform in this position.

7) Free Clothes? No. We do not get reimbursed for clothing. And let me tell you, if you are a building manager of any worth, you will be getting your clothes stained and dirty…it ‘s part of the territory. Oh, you just bought that shirt and pair of paints a week ago? I’m sure you can unclog a drain without having to change into old clothes in the 30 minutes you have before you told your friend you would meet him/her. Oh, now you realize they could use a small bit of paint around the area the vendor worked on last week? That shouldn’t take too long…but you need to mix the can of paint that’s been sitting there for two weeks? Long story short. Your clothes will get spots of paint, and other stains on them. There is no way around it. If you expect a building manager to be capable of switching from “repair clothes” to “apartment showing clothes” and back to “repair clothes” several times a day to accommodate a “professional appearance” when they show you an apartment, it is simply not always possible. Most of my own clothing has spots, stains, and holes in it. I could go out and buy new clothes every 2-3 weeks but in 2-3 weeks, even those clothes would have acquired a paint spot or stain or hole. Honestly, if looking at an apartment, and the building manager is wearing pristine clothing and shoes…I would have to question their worth as a building manager.

8) Paid Sick Leave? What is that? Healthcare? Heard of it…never seen it. Dental? Don’t make me laugh. Vacation? One week, unpaid.

9) Building Managers Are Capable of Having and Maintaining a Life: So you’re a comedian? That won’t qualify you to rent an apartment. So sorry and best of luck in your search.
But hey, we've got the Seahawks. That in itself makes it worthwhile for me to live in my refrigerator box in an alley near Pioneer Square. Also, in keeping with the high end construction boom going on in Jet City I have decide to add on to my palace, so if you spot a washer or dryer box just toss it on the sidewalk in front of the Alexis on first and I will take it from there.Living the dream.
@91. No sympathy for the devil, here.
But 100% true. Renters: Wonder why so many applications require:
credit check, job check, credit card check, background check,
references, first born child?
Because someone in the past did something so horrible
and painful to the land owner that they needed to protect
themselves from you. Sucks, huh?

About the same time you realize that life isn't
fair and not everyone is special. Teachers...
they LIE!

Also, there are affordable places in Seattle.
Just most hipsters and wannabe's will never
live there. Not enough gluten free pizza places.

96. You made at least three of those myths up. Some of them I've *never* heard from anyone ever, and several of the others are loaded with exaggerated misinformation if not outright lies.

Pretty much any reputable property will spot rent to their building manager in exchange for living on property. Otherwise no one in their right mind would take a live-in PM gig.
El Steven, I am not one to argue with someone searching for loopholes in reality.
I will grant you that I added (not made up) three of the myths in order to cater to the article in question.
I deny your accusations of "outright lies".
If there are any exaggerations in my list, I am not aware of them.
I will also grant you, that yes, if you are lucky enough to find a building (or several) with twenty units, then you do receive an apartment to live in. But it is not free. We trade our work for our apartment (i.e., it comes out of our pay). We, like you, still have to eat, buy clothes, pay bills, and provide for our own utilities, computer, cell phone, printer, etc…hence why many building managers must have other jobs!
You claim "Otherwise no one in their right mind would ever take a live-in PM gig"…ahhh…so finally, we get back to the title of the article and my response "Why Seattle Landlords Are Weird".
Reading this, as I am, from outside of the United States (the land of capitalism)is deliciously amusing... It's called supply and demand... At least this one has a happy ending....
Generalizing and slamming landlords is childish. This article and the numerous recent others bashing landlords provide little fact outside of the obvious “rents are going up”. There is plenty of rental industry data out there readily available to “journalists” that is conveniently left out.
Average rents have increased very little over decades when adjusted for inflation (yes, there are spikes both up and down). Also, you know what else is and has been spiking up at an even faster rate than rent? Taxes and utilities… and who’s to blame there? Net rental income (profit) is either flat or down slightly on average.
What do you think is going to happen if Seattle levies a $5 - $15 per foot tax on new construction like Seattle is currently planning on? That’s hundreds of thousands to millions of $s on a moderately sized building. Add rent control, a proven failed experiment for both renters and landlords, to the mix and you will see things deteriorate even more.
There are certainly bad and uneducated landlords out there, just as there are bad and uneducated tenants. To generalize the whole population of both is silly. If your first interaction from a landlord is bad, either don’t rent from them or know what you are getting into and know your rights. Also, churning applicants to keep application fees as one poster stated is a silly notion. Depending on the level of screening, landlords may pay a screening company $15 - $50 per applicant. Any wise landlord simply attempts to recoup their cost here. You should also have a written agreement or criteria before you pay a holding deposit.
To say that the decks are stacked against the renter when it comes to landlord tenant law, like many have commented here, is a flat out lie, especially in Seattle. Unfortunately, I believe most renters simply don’t know their rights. However, renters do have many advocates in various organizations, landlord tenant lawyers, and the various local and federal agencies that oversee the rental industry. The landlord tenant law and its application should give equal protection. I can say I honestly feel equal protection comes at high cost in legal fees to the landlord (part of rent by the way), even if you have a great track record. I do concede that we are all human and make mistakes, whether you are a tenant or landlord. I can also say that good landlords see themselves in the customer service business.
I’m not unsympathetic to the average renter. It takes the majority of us two incomes to buy a home in this city. Now, the same is coming true for most renters. It’s easy to pin this on landlords, but that’s dishonest as I have alluded to above. This issue is about the disappearing middle class. That’s just as much a macro issue as it is a local, if not more so. Artificially raising wages didn’t and won’t make Seattle more affordable. Additional barriers to market entry, such as more taxes on landlords or rent control, will only deteriorate things more. I think both the right and left are just as much to blame for the current woes, but banking on the proven failure of far left socialist policies will only provide more of the same. If you honestly care about the issue, don’t just take my word or their word. Educate yourself so you can have an honest discussion.
Hm. I'm your typical white (though female, at least) fresh-out-of-university software developer. Grew up on the Eastside, went to school in a different city, and am now looking at moving downtown to work.

Gentrification concerns me a lot. Two close friends of mine moved to San Francisco over the past few years—one makes a managerial salary at Facebook and one works in food service, and you can imagine the difference between what I heard about their experiences.

The question is... how do I avoid being part of the problem in Seattle? Is there a conscientious way to rent an apartment when your budget is unreasonably inflated?