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King County approves ‘transformative’ package of renter protections

An apartment building in Seattle. (MyNorthwest file photo)

The King County Council approved a package of legislation this week aimed at providing robust protections for renters across the region.

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That included a “just cause” evictions bill, similar to a measure Seattle has had on the books since 1980. In practice, it makes it so that landlords cannot arbitrarily terminate a lease without a specific, valid reason.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles co-sponsored the new renter protections that, on top of requiring landlords to have just cause to either evict someone or choose not to renew their lease, also would cap in move-in fees, cap late fees to 1.5% of a month’s worth of rent, and require additional notices for rent increases that are more than 3%.

Other protections included in the package are a ban on rent hikes in “unsafe or unlivable housing,” an allowance for tenants to adjust the date their rent is due if they’re living on a fixed income, and prohibiting landlords from requiring a prospective tenant to provide their Social Security number as part of the pre-rental screening process.

Supporters call the measure necessary to protect struggling tenants from ending up on the streets, with the legislation’s sponsors lauding it as “transformative.”

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“The legislation that passed today is a powerful and fair tenant protections package that will keep individuals and families in unincorporated King County housed and stable, while respecting landlords’ rights to collect rent and impose fair evictions when needed,” Kohl-Welles said in a news release.

Critics like Councilmember Reagan Dunn argue it will be detrimental to housing and homeless efforts.

“This will dramatically, within the next six months, dramatically increase rents in King County,” Dunn said, noting that he believes it will only continue to fuel the region’s homelessness crisis.

Seattle also passed its own package of renter protections in early June, including a prohibition on evictions for educators and families with school-aged children during the school year.

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