rental lawStarting in January of 2017, Seattle landlords will need to employ updated rental screening processes to ensure they are accepting applicants on a “first come, first serve” basis. The new policy is intended to combat housing discrimination in the Seattle rental market.  

This new rental law, which is being hailed as the first of its kind, will require that landlords accept the first qualified rental applicant that passes their screening criteria. Seattle is experiencing the nation’s fastest rent increases and a large demand for rental housing, according to Zillow data reported by the Seattle Times.

First come, first serve polices are recommended in the housing industry in order for landlords to avoid discrimination claims, but Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold moved that a general guideline is not enough.

The goal is to ensure prospective renters are treated equally, according to Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who championed the policy. When landlords pick one renter among multiple qualified applicants, their own biases — conscious or unconscious — may come into play, she says. – Seattle Times

Along with the first come, first serve policy, the City Council voted to add anti-discrimination protections based on a renters’ use of subsidy or verifiable alternative source of income; and voted to prohibit preferred employer programs.

The New First Come, First Serve Landlord Policy

Here’s how the city of Seattle plans to enforce the new policy, called the First-in-Time policy.

A landlord will have to disclose information regarding their minimum screening criteria before accepting rental applications.

The landlord will have to screen applicants in the order in which the applications were received,  in person, electronically or through the mail, and make offers to qualified applicants in that order.

Landlords will be required to keep records of when applications were received. Renters can then request those records from the Seattle Office of Civil Rights. If applicants think they were wrongfully skipped, they will be able to sue the landlord.

Source of Income Rental Law

The Seattle City Council today unanimously approved a new law outlawing housing discrimination based on source of income. While the city already bans discrimination against people with Section 8 vouchers, this law will cover all types of income and housing vouchers, like housing subsidies or disability payments to help pay their rent.

Prohibit Special Deals for Tenants Rental Law

The law will also ban special deals for tenants based on where they work, and will require landlords to rent to the first applicant who qualifies, an effort to offset implicit or explicit bias.  

Last year, reported on Seattle landlords providing “Preferred Employee Specials” by offering rent discounts to tech workers at Microsoft and Google. Seattle’s new rental law will prohibit this type of rental discount.

How will the new policies be enforced?

The city will conduct an audit of the new policies 18 months from their taking effect.The goal is to ensure prospective renters are treated equally, according to Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who championed the policy.

Do you exercise a first come, first serve approval process for your rentals? Let us know your thoughts about this new policy in the comments.