As long as he isn’t discriminating, a Seattle landlord asks why he can’t choose who he rents to.
Hugh Brannon told KIRO 7 that before the Seattle City Council passed a renter protection ordinance on Monday, there was already a “whole list of protected classes.”
“As long as you’re following that, is there no human element left in this business?” Brannon asked.
Brannon says landlords should be free to screen people and choose those who they believe will be a responsible renter. That includes the ones who look “nice and clean” and will take “better care” of the rental unit, he says.
But in about a month, the decision won’t be left to the landlord’s discretion. Under the council’s ordinance, landlords will no longer be able to choose which tenants they believe will be best. Instead, they will have to choose the first applicant who qualifies. The goal of this, KIRO 7 points out, is to prohibit discrimination against people with different forms of payment, such as vouchers and subsidies.
The only exception is for landlords who are living in a house in which they are renting a unit from the same property.
Council member Lisa Herbold said Seattle is the first city in the nation to require a “first-in-time” policy.
“It’s considered to be a best practice among rental housing providers,” Herbold said. “When rental housing providers can establish that they follow a policy like this, they can also use that policy as a basis to argue that they’re not discriminating.”
Brannon said there could be a problem if landlords are forced to accept short-term vouchers. Herbold told KIRO 7 that about 80 percent of people with short-term vouchers stay in their housing by paying for rent on their own.
The approved ordinance follows investigations into renters experiencing unbalanced treatment. Twenty-three property owners were accused of housing discrimination in May. Some building owners advertised move-in specials for tech employees, along with employees of other large businesses.
Landlord groups say the measure will backfire, because a first-come-first-served system will benefit those with access to a car or the internet.
The city will conduct an audit of the new policies 18 months from their taking effect.