New Landlord/Tenant Regulations

Over the last 18 to 24 months the Seattle City Council has passed several regulations for rental properties to ensure each unit meets a specific level of livability for tenants as well as attempting to assure potential tenants that landlords are evaluating renters equally.

In late 2014 the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) was passed to ensure rental units are safe and meet basic housing maintenance requirements.  Each unit is required to be registered with the City prior to December 31st, 2016.  There are significant fines and penalties if the unit is not registered.  Owners must have their units inspected once every 10 years by a City approved housing inspector or, an employee of the City who performs these inspections.  A landlord cannot evict a tenant if their rental property has not been previously registered with the City.

Effective January 1st, 2017, there is a “First-in-time Ordinance” (1st Come, 1st Serve) ordinance that states the landlord must offer tenancy to the first prospective occupant who meets all screening criteria established by the landlord.  Applications must be screened in chronological order to determine if the prospective applicant meets all of the minimum stated criteria and qualifications.  The criteria must be in writing.

Enacted in January of 2017, there are restrictions on the amount of the Security Deposit and Move-In Fee.  A Security Deposit cannot be larger than the first month’s rent.  The Pet Deposit cannot be larger than 25% of the first month’s rent.  The combination of the Security Deposit and Pet Deposit cannot be larger than the first month’s rent.  Move-In Fees are limited to no more than 10% of the first month’s rent.  A applicant may pay the Security Deposit and Move-In Fee in installments over the first 6 months of the rental period.

Effective on September 19th of 2016 there is now a Source of Income Protection Ordinance.  This means a landlord cannot discriminate against an applicant based upon his/her source of income.  A landlord must equally consider someone with a Section 8 housing voucher (or equivalent) with a full-time employed individual.  A landlord cannot also provide a preference for rental from an applicant working for a specific company or industry (Amazon or technology industry)

To go into effect in February of 2018, a landlord will not be able to discriminate based upon a prior criminal record.  There will be an outright ban against using an applicant’s prior criminal record to deny rental.  There may be exceptions for sexual offenses or if a landlord can provide a “Legitimate Business Reason” for such denial.

I urge you to seek the advise of a qualified landlord/tenant real estate attorney for clarifications of these rules and regulations.

If you have comments or questions about this article, please email me at smeyers@kw.com.

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