New tenant protection bills include background screening relief, 90-day rent hike notice

Washington legislators introduced four bills this week intended to help renters deal with the spiraling costs and increasing challenges of being a tenant in the state’s current housing market, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance announced.

CHS highlighted 43rd District Rep. Brady Walkinshaw’s plan for one of the bills as we looked ahead at the 2015 session in Olympia. Walkinshaw’s bill would ensure renters only pay an application fee once by requiring landlords to accept a submitted background screening as long as it was prepared within 30 days of the application date. Landlords may choose to do their own background screening, but if one is already provided to them they cannot pass that fee onto prospective tenants.

A second bill introduced by the Democrats would outlaw “discrimination in housing based on a renter’s participation in a government assistance program,” the announcement said. Many rental ads now list “not accepting Section 8,” referring to those receiving assistance with their rent, the announcement noted.

Meanwhile, the third bill is designed to ensure better accuracy in evictions reporting.

The fourth bill would be hugely significant to many Seattle renters as the demand for apartments has sparked continuing rent hikes. Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the legislation would shift the required notice for rent increases from 30 days to 90 days. The bill would also provide tenant relocation assistance to a broader base of renters. Kohl-Welles introduced the same bill last year only to see it fail. With another year of climbing rents, it could be time to give renters more time to keep up with the rise.

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12 thoughts on “New tenant protection bills include background screening relief, 90-day rent hike notice

  1. a state-wide requirement for increased notice for rent increases would be a tremendous help for lower income folks who don’t have the resources to jump into any old apartment around.

    I think it’s very important to push at least that through this session. It’s not rent control, but it’s helpful.

    • I completely agree, Eric. Rent control is illegal at present in the state and I believe will be a hard-fought battle to get much passed. Even with the 60 day notice requirement for rent increases in Seattle people get hosed.

      Another point I would personally like to see is some change to the condo conversion rules. At present the protections only seem to be in place when a building converts from apartments to a condominium, whether or not the units are ever released for individual sale. I lived in a building on Roy Street that had converted but was still 100% rental. What’s to stop the current owner from putting all the units on the market and kicking everybody out with 30 day notices?

    • Yes! That’s what works. Build thousands more apartments in the public and non-profit domain and this will hold down private sector rents better than rent control, which is always riddled with loopholes and structural inequities (I don’t oppose rent control legislation, but it’s a weak substitute for increased affordable housing and illegal at the state level). Glad we have at least one city official who really and truly gets it.

    • And how exactly would the “thousands” of public apartments be financed? Bond sales are a possibility, but the interest on that amount of money would be substantial.

  2. One idea is to get King County to stop ripping its citizens off with massive property tax increases each year. This is one of the causes of expensive housing in Seattle and King County. Even in apartment buildings, the property tax assessment is huge and it has get passed onto to tenants. I am a landlord and buildings are unbelievably expensive to operate. I get the feeling that many readers of this blog think Landlords should just artificially reduce the rent even though all expenses for running buildings are going through the roof. Most of us Landlords have huge mortgages on the buildings to service as well. Not near as much profit as many think.

    • Everything you say is true JerryG, but now look at what you’re saying. Why do you suppose King County raises property taxes? So the commissioners can keep it? So the county can stockpile cash and just sit on it? Of course not. They do it to pay for county services. If they don’t raise it by taxes they’re no more capable of paying for it than you are in paying for those rising expenses to Rent out your property. You complain that tenants expect landlords to absorb all the increases– you’re doing the same thing expecting the county to pay for services with no revenues. If you don’t want to pay taxes for services, you’ll need to start making suggestions of what should be cut from the county budget. Where do you suggest?

    • I think it’s somewhat of a myth that property taxes are “going through the roof.” It really depends on what you own, where it’s located, and many other factors. Perhaps it’s more of a problem for apartment owners, but I own a small, single-family home and the property taxes have been reasonably stable for the past 5 years or so.

  3. I own rental properties on Capitol Hill. I have no problem with a ninety day rental increase requirement, although increases over ten percent already require sixty days notice. Property taxes are going up, but not very quickly. Perhaps the previous writer bought his building at a market rate, and his previously under assessed building’s value was adjusted for tax purposes the next year. This would lead to a substantial tax increase. For those just holding their properties the last ten years, property taxes have generally increased reasonably. Costs escalating more quickly include utilities (if the landlord still pays any of them) and other city add ons, such as the new apartment registration and inspection program. The lattter will likely add substantial costs for those holding older buildings in Seattle as the costs of registering, inspecting, and performing any required upgrades and repairs hits home. The program also will tend to eliminate “illegal” mother-in-law units, as these would likely need substantial changes to comply with all city safety laws. As a landlord, I see the registration and inspection program as my biggest upcoming unknown expense. As a city resident concerned about the lack of affordable housing, I view the progarm as having the potentail to make such housing even harder to find.

  4. Pingback: Olympia Roundup: New medical pot system, renter posthumous rights, light rail to Ballard | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  5. one of the topics that needs to be addressed is when an unlawful detainer has been issued and its been dismissied with or without prejudice it should be removed entirely off someone record. if the state of washington wants to fight homelessness they need to start there. its so many children and families that are broken because of this notice of complaint. some arent lucky or gainfully employed to keep a roof over. it is so said that once this order is placed on you it can never be removed as oppose to a murder charge you can get that sealed. washington needs to grow up seriously and get with the times. Me as a washingtonian born and raised here i feel sorry for the less forntunate that has to go through this ordeal.