Winning in Seattle: Judge blasts “first in time” landlord mandate
Seattle, Washington; March 30, 2018: A King County Superior Judge today handed down a win for all Seattle landlords, restoring their freedom to choose their own tenants.
The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by several small-scale landlords whose rights were threatened by the city’s new “first in time” (FIT) rule. The rule forced landlords to rent their property to the first qualified applicant, even if the landlord has good reasons to pick someone else.
The city insisted the rule was needed to overcome landlords’ subconscious discriminatory tendencies when selecting tenants. But Judge Suzanne Parisien disagreed. “Choosing a tenant is a fundamental attribute of property ownership,” she wrote in her opinion. “The FIT rule restricts far more speech than necessary to achieve its purposes in stopping discrimination.”
“One bad tenant could take us years to recover from financially,” said PLF client MariLyn Yim, who owns a duplex and triplex in Seattle with her husband. “We’re so glad to once again have our rightful ability to carefully select tenants and manage our risk.”
“Today’s win means that property rights are still alive in Washington State,” said PLF attorney Ethan Blevins. “Seattle can’t just strip landlords of the basic choice over who will live on their property for years to come.” The ruling means the city can no longer enforce the FIT rule.
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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 … ›Read more
Yesterday, the Seattle Times ran my op-ed about our lawsuit challenging a Seattle law that forbids landlords from choosing their own tenants In Yim v City of Seattle, we argue that the city has violated due process rights and rights against uncompensated government takings
Seattle’s “first in time” rule requires landlords to offer vacant units to the first qualified applicant Landlords can set general criteria in advance, like credit history or “no smoking,” but otherwise they lack all discretion over whom they rent to The purpose of the rule is two-fold: to combat “unconscious bias” and to relieve the city of proving intentional discrimination