March 29, 2017

Seattle Robs Landlords of Right to Choose Tenants on Courting Liberty podcast

By Seattle Robs Landlords of Right to Choose Tenants on Courting Liberty podcast

In this week’s episode of Courting Liberty, PLF’s Director of Communications Harold Johnson interviews PLF Northwest Center Attorney Ethan Blevins and PLF Client MariLyn Yim about the challenging of Seattle’s new mandate forcing landlords to rent to the first qualified person who applies for a unit. By denying owners the freedom to choose among qualified applicants and to exercise nondiscriminatory discretion about who will live in their units, the “first in time” rule violates state constitutional protections for property rights.

Enacted by the Seattle City Council on August 9, 2016, the “first in time” rule took effect on January 1. It amends Seattle’s Open Housing Ordinance to force landlords to rent to “the first prospective occupant meeting all the screening criteria necessary for the approval of the application.” (Council Bill 118755). The rule brands it an “unfair practice” for a landlord to choose among qualified tenants. Violators are subject to civil suit from would-be renters, as well as government financial penalties of as high as $55,000 for multiple alleged violations.

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Yim v. City of Seattle

In a noble but misguided effort to combat racial discrimination, the City of Seattle passed a series of ordinances forbidding local landlords from choosing their own tenants. A “first in time” ordinance requires landlords to rent to the first financially-qualified tenant who applies. And the “Fair Chance Housing Ordinance” forbids landlords from considering applicants’ criminal histories. PLF represents several small-scale landlords who are denied their constitutionally-guaranteed choice to decide who to allow on their private property.

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