Rentberry v. City of Seattle

Seattle’s unconstitutional rent-bidding law blocks innovation, free speech

Cases > Freedom of Speech and Association > Rentberry v. City of Seattle
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Rentberry is a small San Francisco-based start-up that connects landlords and renters through a website that allows users to bid for rental housing. The company hopes to expand its service to Seattle, but the city council adopted a one-year moratorium on rent-bidding websites over unfounded fears that such sites might violate existing rental law and inflate housing costs. Pacific Legal Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Rentberry and Delaney Wysingle—a landlord who wants to use the site—arguing the moratorium violates the speech rights of Rentberry, as well as the landlords and tenants who wish to use this innovative technology.

Rentberry is a small San Francisco-based start-up that connects landlords and renters through a rent-bidding website. This fledgling innovation speeds up the renting process, boosts transparency, and helps both parties reach an optimal market price. Rentberry has been successful in other cities and hopes to expand to Seattle, but the city council has adopted a one-year moratorium on rent-bidding websites over unfounded fears that such sites might violate existing rental law and inflate housing costs.

The explicit purpose of the moratorium is to suspend all rent-bidding services while the city investigates if they comply with the first-in-time rule and other city regulations. The city also wants to study the possible effects of these services on the housing market before allowing landlords and renters to use them. The ordinance allows the city council to extend the moratorium for another year if city officials request more time to complete the study.

Thanks to the moratorium, Seattle renters and landlords cannot use this cost-effective means of meeting housing needs.

Representing Rentberry and Seattle landlord Delaney Wysingle free of charge, Pacific Legal Foundation filed a federal lawsuit challenging Seattle’s moratorium as violating the speech rights of Rentberry, as well as the landlords and renters who would like to use this innovation technology.

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What’s at stake?

  • A city that prides itself as a major tech hub is stifling innovation without any evidence of harm.
  • The government cannot silence speech as a preemptive strike because it suspects that the speech might be bad.
  • Innovative approaches to housing designed to serve landlords and tenants alike deserve a chance to succeed or fail based on their value to the community.

Case Timeline

Opening Brief on Appeal

August 16, 2019 Download

Plaintiffs' Response to Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

October 04, 2018 Download

Motion for Summary Judgment

August 17, 2018 Download

Complaint

May 23, 2018 Download

Case Attorneys

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