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40 percent of Seattle landlords are selling due to new rental rules

(Unsplash/Brandon Griggs)

Landlords are a bit displeased with the Seattle City Council at the moment, and they are taking their investments and going home. A recent University of Washington study on Seattle rental housing found that 40 percent of landlords have sold or are planning to sell their properties as a result of the new rental rules.

“Don’t think of an apartment or house or dwelling as anything other than a place where one can put your money, like a stock,” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “A building is an investment, and one wants to have a return on their investment.”

But Seattle landlords don’t find the new rental rules to be worth it. Those rules include expanded source-of-income protections, a ban on using criminal records as a determining factor, restricting the size of security deposits, and the First-in-Time law, which forces landlords to take the first renter that applies and meets the criteria. It was recently struck down by a Superior Court judge, but the City of Seattle has filed an appeal.

RELATED: Is the Seattle City Council partially responsible for rent increases?

“All the noise we had heard from the wonderful, illustrious city council was about tenants’ rights, and about how horrible landlords are,” Curley said. “And we’re going to come down with one after another regulation on you because you have a bias, and don’t rent to this person, or you charge them too much money.”

Not only are landlords finding it difficult to maintain their properties under all the new ordinances, they don’t believe any of them are actually making Seattle more affordable. According to the report, one in five increased their rent in the past year in response to new city ordinances. And 40 percent reported that they have already adopted stricter rental requirements as well.

Seattle landlords and social expectations

For Curley, government interference and the demonetization of landlords is suffocating the rental market.

“The market will dictate the price of the apartment,” Curley said. “But once the government gets in and says, ‘Oh, that’s too much money to charge, or that’s unfair to somebody who has a right to live in this apartment.’ At that point everybody says, ‘You know what? I’m not going into Seattle. I will not build apartments in Seattle because they’re going to restrict how much money I can make, and therefore I’ll go build somewhere else.'”

KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney doesn’t believe the ordinances are driving all landlords away.

“There are plenty of people who are willing to rent in Seattle, and those 40 percent may sell to people who are willing to rent them,” Tom said.

“The reality is that we have certain social expectations of landlords, and yes, I’m sure it bites some landlords. But the idea that you can’t have rent increases on substandard housing units seems like a fair deal.”

From the renters’ perspective, the city-funded report indicated that the biggest issues with housing are affordability, discrimination, a lack of adherence to and awareness of rental laws, and limited transparency in the application process. Rental prices remain high, but have been gradually flattening out, according to Zillow.

Perhaps most striking of the statistics gathered is that 89 percent of landlords believe their perspectives are not even being considered by local government.

“Part of their problem is who you have to rent to, first person in, and when you can take the security deposit. The majority of landlords said that the city council is against them,” Curely noted.

“So congratulations city council, you’re getting what you want, which is driving landlords out. But what you didn’t intend for was to have the rents go up, which is what’s going to happen.”

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