ICYMI: City Council Bars Landlords from Refusing Tenants with Criminal Records

Comments

1
I wonder if the rental qualifications just got much harder in Seattle? This will lead to landlords expecting a credit score of 800 or higher AND demonstrate verifiable employment history for the past 7 years.

Those with criminal records won't find it easier to rent and those with even a slight blemish on their credit histories will be forced to into suburbia. And that leads to even worse traffic on I-5.
2
While I support the law's intent to help people fresh out of jail, a bad credit report and/or short length of current employment are both perfectly legal reasons that landlords can and will use instead now. The mayor and council knew this going into it, making this a feel good law rather than a serious piece of legislation.

I also have a hard time believing that 1 in 3 people in Seattle has "a criminal background", particularly when used in a context that implied prison time was part of that.

And I'm not sure what the following non-sequitor quote even means, or has to with the law: "For a criminal justice system that disproportionately arrests people of color, punishing someone who has not been found guilty is a true injustice," said Council Member Lisa Herbold, who sponsored the legislation with Council President Bruce Harrell."

And while she and the council may be 'humbled' by 'the courage' it took to get this passed, there isn't a landlord in the city that's even giving it a second thought. It accomplishes nothing and they know it, just like the people who passed it do.
3
"The law will not stop landlords from refusing to rent to people on the sex offender registry if they committed the offense as an adult"
Murray will veto it...after all, he's gonna need a place to live once he gets out of jail.
4
@1 makes a valid point, landlords will find a way around it and the future screening will be only harder.

From another news site: Ed Murray will undoubtedly sign this into law. The same Ed Murray who, when accused of child rape, said of his accuser in a Stranger guest-editorial, “his extensive criminal history is very relevant… his criminal history proves he cannot be trusted."
5
@2 true that landlords can use proxy criteria, but some of them will fumble and say too much of what they meant, and get nailed. People are sloppy.

The large commercial services are probably going to have a written policy to comply with the law, and a written policy to turn clients away if they openly ask to be illegal. That should move the needle some, even if landlords also go around it.
6
Beaver: The commercial services work for the landlords, who they suck up to at every opportunity or don't stay in business very long, and so don't expect them to be championing this pointless law any time soon. That's real estate, which is always about who's got the money.

As for landlords being too inept to conceal their true motives and getting busted - I wouldn't count on it. As a reformed landlord I tend to agree that there aren't a lot of deep thinkers in that business, but because most of the brain cells they do have are focused on the money, and real estate isn't exactly rocket science, they'll be keenly aware of this new law and use whatever legal means they can get away to get around it, just like they've always done. And this law does nothing to change that.
7
This is going to do nothing to provide more affordable housing or make it easier for ex-offenders to get housed.

First, anyone who is thinking about building housing will now have one more reason to put up more expensive places (that ex- or current felons will not be able to afford) rather than making the effort to provide affordable places.

Second, this will only increase the resistance of the single-family neighborhoods to increased density/rental housing going in. The rental place next door is one thing if you think that the landlord is trying to screen out those with a violent past, and quite another if you know that not only are they unable to do that, but the City Council has a goal of making sure more criminals get the chance to live in your neighborhood.

Third, as other posters have noted, most landlords' qualifications just went up another notch In other words, this will hurt lower income renters who are not ex-felons by making it harder for them to rent a place. Is that really what the City intended?
8
Please stop micro managing us Seattle. So many rules. All these rules cost us taxpayers money to enforce and what do we really get in return?
9
dvs99. Exactly. It was vanity legislation intended to make it's supporters feel good about themselves, without ever considering the unintended consequences of this pointless and counter-productive law. Humility and courage had nothing to do with it.
10
Wow it's concern trollls all the way down.

Funny how property owners' sixth sense for unintended consequences doesn't seem tuned to the unintended consequences of discrimination, and flouting and skirting the law. Keep that up and what will you get? More regulation. More enforcement. Stronger arguments for rent control.

It's the Law of Unintended Consequences, guys. Haven't you heard?
11
@10- I am not flouting or skirting any laws. There is nothing wrong with trying to do business with people who are likely to hold up their end of the bargain. A criminal record that demonstrates they are not such a person (think several convictions for theft or fraud) should be a perfectly reasonable reason to rent to someone else. Just like a credit report that shows a pattern of skipping on bills and an eviction or two.

I agree that there are plenty of people who have served their time or paid their fines and deserve a clean start. But there are plenty of others who are just going to go and commit more crimes. They are going to do that whether or not they have apartments. One group will make fine tenants. The other may not (would you really want to have a violent criminal or a serial burglar living in the apartment next to you? How about a meth cooker or dealer?)

I would have no problem renting to someone who appeared to fall into the first group, just as I have no problem renting to someone who has poor credit perhaps due to a divorce or some really truly unfortunate breaks (and in fact have done so). But here's the situation in Seattle. Under the "first in time" law, we don't get to evaluate which group a prospective tenant falls into. A lot of people have bad credit simply because they don't pay their bills. I do not wish to rent to them because they are not likely to pay me either. Since I can no longer use subjective individual information in making a decision, the only economically rational decision is to not rent to ANYONE with bad credit.

Same with criminal records. With this new law, I can't do anything to screen out the bad apples, so the only rational choice is to try to set criteria that reduce the likelihood that applicants will have records.

If your position is that a person deserves an apartment regardless of whether they will pay the rent, trash the place, or scare other tenants, I suggest you talk the City Council into building some public housing rather than asking a small number of people to bear 100% ot the risk just because they are landlords.
12
Stupid new law!! I had a duplex for many years. The tenant in one of the units decided he was going to be a "pimp" so he abducted a young lady then raped an beat (home training) her. The police were called by the neighbors because of the noise. Even though he was already a felon and barred from having a gun, he had a pistol. He told the police he was not going with them and then fired his pistol through the door at the police and through the wall into the other unit of the duplex. He was convicted of felony assault and served 5 years in prison but he was not convicted of a sex crime. Good to know his new landlord will not be able to ask about his conviction; this should make it safer for his landlord and his new neighbors. Another stupid law trying to micromanage the housing industry.
13
"so the only rational choice is to try to set criteria that reduce the likelihood that applicants will have records. "

That's what skirting the law means. That's why skirting and breaking are two different words.

I don't think you know what "unintended consequences" means either. I suppose since you only see those words in rightwing libertardian economics screeds, you might think it only means "bad things that always happen when liberals are in charge". That's not what unintended consequences means.

It means when you lose a debate (which you did, so all your arguments for not renting to felons is too little too late -- you lost, deal with it) and the winning side of the debate passes a law, you should obey it. If you try to get around it by following the letter of the law and using other means to screen out felons, you will bring down consequences. The city council will see what you are doing and they will pass more laws.

You guys whine about overregulation, but this is why overregulation happens. The law of our land is that we don't send every single felon straight to the electric chair. They eventually get out of prison. They need somewhere to live, or else they become homeless, which is a social burden. Also, homelessness drives down your fucking property values dumbass.

Respect the fact that the law is that we do let felons out of prison. Respect the fact that the law is that you should not discriminate against them. You know, a lot of those felons broke laws they didn't agree with too. You have so much in common. Build on that.

I know you're not listening. I know you will fuck this up. I know there will be more regulations and more restrictions telling you what landlords can and can't do. You will be sad, and you will think you are the victim. That's what's going to happen. This is the bed you made for yourselves. Enjoy.
14
#13: You've got 'em the run now, tiger.
15
@13, " You know, a lot of those felons broke laws they didn't agree with too."

So if I burglar your home that's ok, because I don't agree with that law and I feel I have a right to rob your home?
16
@13- I didn't personally attack you or call you a dumbass. But i sure as hell am calling you one now.

Did you even read my fucking post? How about the part where I agree that lots of ex-cons are OK people & deserve a break? How about the fact that my real complaint is that I am no longer allowed under this ridiculous law to consider people as individuals? The real issue is not the criminal record law in a vacuum, but the combination with the first in time law.

How much time have you spent with criminals? I am a former public defender. A lot of my clients were fine people who had (and in some cases ad not) made a mistake. A bunch were people who did not understand how things in society worked and broke laws/got caught because of it. They needed a hand up and a little bit of education. And a few were actual sociopaths who scared the crap out of me. They were not going to turn into good neighbors no matter what. I would argue that (like everyone else) this population deserves to be treated as individuals and considered on their own merits. That is exactly what we can't do any more. So yes, if my only real option to avoid the bad ones (by the way, do some looking into how long it takes to evict someone) is to try and weed out those with records, then that's pretty much what I need to do. Not what I want to do, but what I need to do to protect myself and my other tenants.

And by the way, I do know what "unintended consequences" means. It means the consequences of something that the persons who took the original action did not intend. Nothing to do with whether "liberals are in charge" (I have never voted for a conservative in my life, by the way, and don't plan to start now). Mark my words, what the City Council has done recently is going to make it harder, not easier, for low-income people to find housing. Ever live somewhere with rent control? Unintended consequences up one side and down the other. No help for the poor and it gets harder for everyone to deal with the rental market.

Kind of ironic that you are so anxious to see landlords face what you predict are the consequences of their actions (which you are in general making up out of whole cloth) but can't stand the thought of persons who have actually committed crimes and fucked society for the rest of us having things a bit tougher because of it. You clearly hate landlords and anyone who is better off than you. I don't know why. Maybe there is a good reason. Maybe not.

17
@16. 13 is a child, never accomplished anything, never built anything, never worked hard for anything, never had anything. 13 is a child who thinks the government is his new parents...Treat him as such