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Seattle’s tech workers get rental discounts after driving rates up

Is is legal or fair for employees of certain tech companies to receive rental deals? (AP)
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Seattle’s growing tech industry has often been blamed for the rising rents around town. Now those same workers are suspected of receiving discounts on rent.

“With more tech workers living in Seattle, it’s a buyer’s market for the renter,” KIRO Radio’s John Curley said. “As a result, some of these landlords are saying, ‘Hey, if you work for this company, or this company, or this company, we’ll give you a discount.'”

KING 5 reports that a stable income combined with the notion that tech workers aren’t home too often &#8212 meaning less wear-and-tear &#8212 are prompting landlords to give extra incentives to such renters to lure them into apartments.

Related: Why are so many people from King County moving to California?

Luna Sol in Kirkland is one such apartment building. Its ads claim that Google and Microsoft workers can get deposits and fees cut in half if they rent with them. Another apartment complex, Aperture on Fifth in downtown Seattle, tells prospective renters to ask for preferred employer specials.

“I’m surprised this is happening and I’m surprised it is allowed,” co-host Tom Tangney said, noting that basing rent off an assumption is unfair. “We have an industry that is booming here and [tech workers] are seen as reliable, wealthy, prime tenants, that are hardly ever home.

“The assumption is that if you work for Google, you therefore must be gone all the time,” he said. “Maybe you’re the one Google guy that works at home all the time.”

In contrast, KING 5 also spoke with a woman who has been apartment hunting. She works at a doctor’s office and fits the criteria landlords often seek, but isn’t eligible for the tech-friendly deals.

“They see a huge influx of these workers. And what they are going for is that type of customer, a tech customer, because there are so many of them. She is not the person they are shopping for,” Curley said. “These landlords are shopping for these other customers.”

Curley said that he did a quick search for similar industry-influenced discounts and couldn’t find anything, aside from military discounts.

“They’re giving discounts for behavior, really,” he said. “It’s assumed behavior; that you’re not home. Now can they discriminate for a specific behavior? Yes, and they do. If you smoke, they charge you more. If you have a dog, you are charged more. If you come in with three people or kids, they charge you more.

“There is assumed behavior that they are discounting for so they can get that type of person,” he said. “On the opposite side, they charge you for behavior they feel damages their property.”

The tech-targeted incentives are being criticized. Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights has said it will be looking into the rental practice within a month to investigate whether they run afoul of rental discrimination laws.

You might also be interested in: Can anything be done to slow Seattle’s skyrocketing rents?

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