District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is proposing new legislation to limit move-in costs and “ease moving barriers” for Seattle renters.
A representative from Sawant’s office tells CHS the the legislation proposes changes to many small aspects of move-in fees.
“When you take them together, they have an impact,” Sawant staffer Ted Virdone said.
Virdone said that when a new tenant moves in, landlords can currently charge a variety of nonrefundable fees including for pets and cleaning.
The legislation would limit nonrefundable fees to no more than 10% of the first full month’s rent. But when the cost of background screening exceeds 10% of one month’s rent, the excess can be included in the nonrefundable fees.
As per state law, background checks cannot exceed the actual cost of the screening.
The proposal would also require that the security deposit and the nonrefundable fees don’t exceed the first full month’s rent.
Sawant’s office expects the portion of the ordinance that will have the most significant impact is the requirement for landlords to provide tenants with the option of payment plans for move-in fees including the nonrefundable fees, security deposit and last month’s rent.
For example, if a tenant had to pay $1,500 for last month’s rent when moving in, the tenant could choose pay it in six monthly payments at $250 each.
“It suddenly becomes a lot more manageable,” Virdone said.
Landlords wouldn’t be allowed to charge additional fees or interest on the installments.
Virdone said the council could consider the ordinance in September.
Sawant, along with council member Lisa Herbold, will present the legislation at a morning announcement Thursday at the Washington Community Action Network! office, 1806 East Yesler Way, where the organization will also be presenting a report on the housing affordability crisis.
Virdone said Sawant’s office consulted with WashingtonCAN! while drafting the legislation. The organization provided Sawant’s office with rolling results from their survey, providing information from renters throughout Seattle.
“We were really focusing on getting the voices of the community,” said Xochitl Maykovich, with WashingtonCAN!, about the report.
The community organization, which works to “achieve racial, social, gender and economic justice,” surveyed more than 300 people from throughout the city about substandard housing, affordability and barriers to accessing housing.
Virdone said the survey really highlights the effects of move-in fees on tenants.
Maykovich described the survey as broad, but said it collected good, and at times surprising findings. Maykovich declined to go into detail about the survey results detailed in the report ahead of the Thursday event, but said the data collected came from residents with a variety of race, gender identities, age and location backgrounds.
Tenants impacted by Seattle’s rent prices are also expected to speak at the event on Thursday.
Sawant is coming off some recent victories in her battles for affordable housing. Earlier this year, the council passed Sawant’s anti-slumlord law that stops landlords from raising rents in poorly maintained buildings while also protecting tenants from surprise rent increases.
In September, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution urging lawmakers in Olympia to modify or repeal the state’s ban on rent control, and Sawant is continuing her efforts to fight the ban, Virdone said.
This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Maykovich. CHS apologizes for the error.