May 01, 2018

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.

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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.

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