Council Bans Special Move-In Deals, Housing Discrimination Based on Source of Income

Comments

1
This is funny:
"If a tenant had a three-month rent voucher, for example, but then couldn't find permanent income in time to continue paying their rent after those three months, the landlord could be left without rent payments and the tenant evicted, said Sean Martin, a spokesperson for the RHA. In response to those concerns, Council Members Rob Johnson and Tim Burgess amended the law to request a city audit of the law and its effects by the end of 2018."

In the meantime, if there is a problem, fuck you, landlords!
2
The city council members voting in the affirmative on this measure are just painting red concentric circles on themselves for elimination in the next round of elections.

At some point the average taxpaying citizens of this city, who incidentally also have rights, will have had enough of the silly council mandates and programs which are pointless, wasteful and surprisingly stupid--even by Seattle standards, and vote them out.

At least one prays for such relief.
3
@2: Please, elaborate, tell us who these "average taxpaying citizens of this city" are.
4
This stupid shit will do *nothing* to ease the housing problems in Seattle, particularly at the low end. This council fuckery won't change anything at the bustling high end. And accelerates the motive to gentrify the cheaper housing stock. I'm not a landlord, and no way in hell would I want to be one in this whackjob regime.
7
I think it's clear that landlords should sell to developers. Have any of you owned rental property before?

I wish we didn't have a council who is mostly focused on out liberaling each other, but it can be sadly amusing sometimes.
8
When will this go into effect? I'm particularly interested in the "first applicant who qualifies" bit.
9
How is any of this enforced? How would any denied tenant know that they were the "first qualified candidate" unless they sued? And how many of the people that this law is aimed at protecting have the extra money or time to sue?

This is all well-intentioned law aimed at a persistent problem (racism is still rampant in real estate, renting and lending practices), but I do worry about how it would impact a first-time, independent landlord renting out, say, an Accessory Dwelling Unit. Could that landlord be penalized if they had three qualified candidates but then picked one over the others because they seemed like they'd make better neighbors to share a wall with?
10
@5: When you advertised your house for rent, did you offer variable rent levels depending on the employer of the prospective tenant? Because that's all that's been banned here.
11
Good luck to those with a credit score below 700. A good credit score will now be a hard requirement.
12
@10 Actually, variable rent levels are most certainly NOT all that has been banned. Landlords will no longer be able to use their experience, discussions with prospective tenants, or anything other than what time the person applied to decide who will be the better tenant. There is a lot more to that than just who is qualified on paper, and there are plenty of tenants who have good jobs and good credit scores (i.e. are "qualified") but will be a disaster. After a while you learn something about how to select the good ones, but I guess the City Council knows better. And now that the tenants are going to pay their damage deposit over six months, we may not even have anything on deposit when they do damage the place. I know that my minimum qualifications will now include glowing references from prior landlords, and I am sure I won't be the only one. That is going to hurt young people, people getting divorced and re-established, immigrants, those just moving to the area etc. (in short, some of the very people the City Council claims to want to help).
13
It is my understanding that in the last 40 to 50 years Seattle has destroyed about 20,000 units of low income housing. The city council has also made it more difficult to build less expensive housing because of zoning and other regulations. These two events together have had a negative impact on low income workers in Seattle and near-by suburbs. Unfortunately the same policies that caused that problem are being used to fix it.Piling more unworkable rules on top of the the first pile of unworkable rules never fixed anything..
14
A landlord can demand payment in CASH, yeah they can. That can be a qualification for renting a unit. A voucher can't be redeemed for cash. The idiots that run Section 8 treat the poor like stupid know-nothings. The problem is easily solved by giving Section 8 recipients a check, said person puts it in the bank account, said tenant pays the rent just like everyone else. Problem solved.
15
Requiring mom-and-pop landlords to rent to the “first qualified” applicant is an ill-conceived social engineering experiment, and made entirely at citizens' own private risk.

Speaking as a small landlord, it’s inconceivable that our City Council members are so disconnected from our needs that they would actually consider this reasonable policy.

I can say firsthand: if I have to rent to the first person who just has enough money, I’m probably going to have to pull my rentals off Craigslist/Hotpads, and instead advertise exclusively through word-of-mouth or at my tech workplace where folks are always looking for new housing (so I can minimize my risk of legal action for choosing the right tenant).

This is the *opposite* of the intent of this law.

As a small landlord, my tenants live literally 3 feet above my head. There’s no way I’d be looking for the first person who can just pay the rent. This person is going to be my close neighbor for years to come. Like many small landlords, I intentionally underprice my units by 10-20%, so I can have the best fit.

As a landlord, I’m looking for:
- a conscientious neighbor
- someone who’s going to stay a long time if treated really well (e.g. tiny or no annual rent increases, same-day maintenance, etc)
- going to be responsible about shared building security/taking out the garbage/maintaining common areas
- history of home ownership or other demonstrated responsibility

Like many part-time landlords, I don’t have the time to handle tenant churn. It’s a huge drain I can’t afford. And, frankly, I want conscientious neighbors I enjoy living next to.

This is simply the reality of being a mom-and-pop landlord in the US. City Council can’t magically legislate a set of needs away simply because they’re inconvenient.
16
@8 Most of the law will take effect in about a month (following the mayor's signature, which should happen soon). The first-in-time rule takes effect January 1, 2017. http://seattle.legistar.com/LegislationD…
17
@CapHillDude I'm guessing that Mrs. Murphy's exemption would apply to part-time landlords. Mrs. Murphy's exemption, (if you're not familiar) is a caveat in the Fair Housing Laws for landlords who have a property with less than 4 dwellings in a building, where the landlord lives in one of them. This allows much more grace to the landlord to pick their neighbor, not just a tenant.

I'm curious when this will go into effect, considering most corporate PM companies: Greystar, Pinnacle, Holland, etc, offer reduced deposits and waived application fees through their Preferred Employer program. This isn't just for Amazonians or Microsofties...most educational institutions, (think teachers) and government workers (think police officers) get these specials as well. It's not a rent reduction, just a special, like 1/2 month free rent. But again, most properties offer it, so it will be interesting to see how that will change.
18
So if a landlord is offering 1st month or 6 weeks free, is it really free? Or is that lost revenue being recouped through more expensive rent? If you don't qualify for those deals, are you paying the cost for others getting free rent because they work for Amazon? Do you get a break if you prove to be just as good a renter as those Amazon renters by getting your last month free or 6 weeks free?

How about if you have better credit score and good, secure job, but not with Amazon? Out of luck huh? What about a company or industry with known issue of age, gender and race imbalance? Are you indirectly discriminating if you give such preference?

19
The City Council took a piss in front of a raging fire and then patted themselves on the back saying "We helped!!"

This is pathetic and will do next to nothing to make Seattle more affordable and allow lower and middle income earners to live in Seattle.

But in neighborhood news the old Theodora in Wedgwood has high priced apartments available for lease!! You know, the place that used to provide low income housing for people. And the old orphanage on 65th street and 32nd avenue is looking quite nice as high priced condos and townhouses. I'm sure those kids all found loving homes: at least that's what I'd be telling myself if I lived there now. PROGRESS!!!!!
20
@19 How can any limited resource be available and affordable for 'everyone'? Did Soviet bread lines work?

Based on x, y, and z I am discriminated against living on lake washington but I work near there and just really, really want to.

If council actually wants to accomplish something they could throw away the SF zoning that ensures the MAJORITY of Seattle will never be affordable for most. Providing more places to create housing is a lot better than awkward government bureaucracy and process.

I agree with you that this self congratulating show by city council is disgusting and pathetic.
21
I was a landlord for a little over 3 years in Seattle. I kept the rent under market rate and I was just fine (even with a change-over and several repairs). Landlords complaining about this are just upset that they can't squeeze every penny out of their tenants. Or they purchased an overpriced property and their poor business decision means they have to turn the screws on renters. Sorry, fellow landlords, zero sympathy for you.
22
One of my concerns is if landlords are forced to take what I'll call for lack of a better term "high risk tenants" and end up with a revolving door of tenants and/or tenants that can't meet their obligations the landlord would raise the rent to cover their losses. The city needs to stop micro managing peoples investment property. I woud say if the city forces a landlord ro accept a tenant the city can pay for the eviction process of it comes to that.
23
@21 I'm not upset because I can't "squeeze the last dime" out of someone. I'm upset because the City council put a rule in there that makes me rent to an applicant just because his financials/application checks out. That may be good enough for you, but it's not for me. You'd never see an employer give a job applicant a position based on resume alone - that's insane. Why should a landlord be given any less freedom to judge the worthiness of a potential renter?
25
@23 But what you're essentially doing is applying a bias based on a personal feeling and very few data points. This inevitably leads to discrimination - consciously or not. And that's exactly what the council doesn't want to happen. Redlining neighborhoods happened when we don't have laws like this.

I'm sure you feel very confident that Group A is 70% more likely to cause damage to your rental or Group B is 90% more likely to pay rent on time. But even assuming the numbers align with reality, you don't get to disenfranchise an entire segment of people to mitigate risk when it comes to housing. Housing is a unique asset investment in that regard. Seattle is one of those progressive regions that will also favor protective laws over landlord risk mitigation. So, yes, some of your freedom as a landlord is being taken away to prevent discrimination.

All of that said, landlords will still find creative ways in an attempt to carve out "favorable" tenants and I'm sure it's rare that housing discrimination lawsuits are filed. As a renter, you're totally in the dark about the application process. You submit your info and just sit and wait. How can you really know that your application came in *after* the Microsoft employee making $90k more than you?

As for judging an employee based partly on the interview, that alone is a whole can of worms and women and people of color get discriminated against constantly under the guise of "culture fit." I would love to see laws passed in that area as well because the playing field there is completely lopsided, particularly white collar employment. "He talked about rap artists and we're more of a prog-rock office. He seems qualified, but I just don't think it would be the right culture fit."