Press Release

New lawsuit in Seattle: Housing ordinance is unfair and unconstitutional

Seattle, Washington; May 1, 2018: On the heels of their recent win against the City of Seattle, Kelly Lyles and a group of fellow small-scale landlords have again taken the city to court over an unconstitutional landlord law.

Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, passed by city council in 2017, forbids landlords from considering applicants’ criminal histories when selecting tenants. In other words, landlords cannot base a rental decision on concerns over their own safety or the safety of other tenants and neighbors. Violators face fines and penalties of up to $55,000.

“I just want the right to choose,” said Kelly, an artist whose living depends on renting out a second house. “I’m not opposed to renting to somebody with a criminal history. I just want to meet them and trust them.”

The lawsuit filed today in King County Superior Court argues the ordinance violates the due process and free speech provisions of the Washington and U.S. Constitutions. It’s the same court where PLF successfully fought the city’s “first in time” rule that forced landlords to rent their property to the first qualified applicant. The March ruling said that choosing a tenant is “a fundamental attribute of property ownership.”

“Seattle can’t decide what landlords are allowed to know about potential tenants,” said PLF attorney Ethan Blevins. “Landlords have the right to protect themselves by asking basic questions about a potential tenant’s criminal history.”

PLF represents Kelly and the other landlords in Yim v. City of Seattle.

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the nation’s leading public interest legal organization devoted to preserving individual rights and economic freedom. Since 1973, donor-supported PLF has successfully litigated for limited government, private property rights, and free enterprise in the nation’s highest courts.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Collin Callahan at ccallahan@pacificlegal.org.

Case Attorneys

Ethan W. Blevins

Attorney

Ethan Blevins joined PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in August 2014. He litigates cases involving the First Amendment, property rights, school choice, and the separation of powers. Ethan began his trek … ›

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Brian T. Hodges

Senior Attorney

Brian Hodges is a Senior Attorney at PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in Bellevue, Washington. Brian focuses his practice on defending of the right of individuals to make reasonable use of … ›

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Case Commentary

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Post

By Ethan W. Blevins

We’ve sued Seattle again!

Today, PLF sued Seattle over another newfangled experiment–the so-called “Fair Chance Housing Ordinance.” The ordinance prohibits landlords from doing any criminal background checks on potential tenants or turning down a housing … ›

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Post

By Ethan W. Blevins

Victory in PLF’s challenge to Seattle’s “implicit bias” rule

Today, a trial judge ruled that Seattle can’t deny landlords the right to choose their own tenants. Seattle’s “first in time” rule forced landlords to offer any vacant unit to the … ›

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Post

By Ethan W. Blevins

Can government regulate your subconscious?

If government can strip you of choice just because unconscious bias might influence that choice, its power would have no bounds. But that is precisely what Seattle is doing to its landlords.

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