Rent-bidding websites still banned in Seattle

March 19, 2019 | By ETHAN BLEVINS

Seattle loves to sell itself as a tech mecca, until innovation clashes with progressive stereotypes. Then Seattle’s arms are not so open, as San Fran tech startup and PLF client Rentberry found out. Rentberry is one of several innovative websites that are trying to revolutionize and simplify the home rental process. Rentberry simplifies and automates all the major rental tasks from rental agreements to maintenance requests. It also allows applicants to place bids on rent and security deposits. In just a few years, Rentberry’s innovations have helped simplify the lives of tenants, landlords, and homeseekers in cities across the globe.

When the Seattle City Council caught wind of this new technology, though, they rushed to ban it. Uncomfortable with even allowing people to experiment with new technology, the city council slapped a year-long moratorium on “rent-bidding” platforms that give tenants the flexibility to bid on housing. The City’s concern stems from the misapprehension that bidding always inflates market pricing. The ban stays in place while the City “studies” these rent-bidding platforms to decide whether to allow them. In the meantime, the Seattle rental market misses out on a technology that promises to make renting easier for everyone.

Convinced that websites with lawful content do not need government’s “permission” to operate, Rentberry filed suit in federal court, represented by PLF. Unfortunately, the court recently kicked Rentberry’s suit out of the courtroom because the ban on the use of its website did not “harm” Rentberry.

As matters stand now, it seems the city has done nothing to “study” the effects of rent-bidding during the year-long ban. That means the city council is likely to extend the ban, with no promise that they’ll actually do the investigation that justified the ban in the first place. If they do extend it, we won’t bow to the court decision denying Rentberry the chance to challenge Seattle’s unconstitutional actions.