Gross: Landlords ditching Seattle over nightmare tenants, laws 

Aug 25, 2023, 3:47 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm

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(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Dozens of landlords handcuffed by Seattle’s coddling of nightmare tenants is leading to a troubling trend: The landlords are ditching Seattle.  

“It is so bad that people are just selling their properties and leaving in droves,” landlord Charlotte Thistle told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH.


Thistle is one of at least 600 members of the Facebook group for aggrieved landlords. Thistle’s experience with her own problem tenant and conversations with others in the industry made her realize there were widespread problems. It led to Seattle Grassroots Landlords. The organization calls itself “a network of local, independent, small-scale housing providers working to support each other and to prevent the ongoing degradation of rental housing options in Seattle” on its website.

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Thistle points to 17 new laws implemented by local lawmakers over the last several years as being part of the problem. These measures were pitched as ways to mitigate the threat of “evil corporate landlords,” but Thistle says they end up hurting small property owners who are trying to provide affordable housing options. She said data shows nearly one-quarter of available rental units provided by small landlords being taken off the Seattle-area market.  

The eviction process has been slowly molded over the years to favor tenants. But they treat honest, good-faith tenants the same as irresponsible scoundrels. 

“It’s just so bureaucratic and burdensome that it can take a year and $20,000 in legal fees to evict the person who’s creating a serious problem,” Thistle said. 

Policies like the COVID-19 eviction moratorium, in particular, harmed landlords. While tenants weren’t paying bills, landlords still had payments they couldn’t get out of. Other policies like the winter eviction and school year eviction bans (if children are in the home) make it nearly impossible for a landlord to reclaim a property, even if there are significant lease violations.  

“I’m a single mom, I own one house. And I rent out rooms in my house. And it has happened in my house where we did have a person who was harassing and creating an uncomfortable situation for other female tenants. And it was quite scary,” Thistle said. 

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH previously chronicled the story of Jason Roth, a small landlord who is battling to get his home back from a nightmare tenant who was allegedly listing the property on Airbnb without paying any rent. Roth is still months away from an eviction hearing.  

More from Max Gross: Nightmare tenant made Seattle landlord go homeless

Through her advocacy, Thistle has documented countless examples of tenant abuse like severe property damage, violence, harassment and failure to pay bills. As a result of her experiences. she says she’s getting out of the business.  

“I’m renovating, and my plan is to sell my house in the new year,” Thistle said.  

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Seattle Grassroots Landlords is hoping voters change the current makeup of Seattle City Council. One council member, socialist Kshama Sawant, is not seeking re-election. She’s been a loud voice demonizing Seattle landlords.  

“There has been this very radical voice on the city council, who is just every meeting, doesn’t listen to the landlords, (saying) ‘They’re lying.'” Thistle said. 

Thistle plans to stay involved on the activist side. She says she is hopeful that the next wave of lawmakers will consider writing responsible housing policy. Until then, many landlords will continue to struggle while the supply of available housing continues to dwindle as more and more property owners get out of the rental business.  

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here

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Gross: Landlords ditching Seattle over nightmare tenants, laws