Tenant advocates are calling for supporters at City Hall Tuesday morning as the City Council takes up a proposal to cap move-in fees in Seattle that was one of the rare pieces of Seattle legislation to be kicked back by a full vote of the council after committee approval.
Under the measure from District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, landlords could only charge tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and would need to allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments. According to an example provided by Sawant, a tenant moving into an $1,800 a month unit today could pay $5,600 to sign the lease. Under her proposal, the same tenant would only have to pay $2,400 to move-in as other upfront costs would be spread out over six months.
In September, District 5 representative Debora Juarez successfully lead an effort to kick the bill back to committee, citing concerns from the city departments that would need to enforce the restrictions. Sawant said the move to stop the bill in its tracks was an example of the way the City Council works against its citizenry. “Jam it up as much as possible,” she said of her colleagues’ response to progressive legislation, but “ram the process through” for the police and business interests.
Council president Bruce Harrell had pledged that Sawant’s committee would be given a time to meet despite the busy upcoming budget schedule before December 13th so that the bill could be in place in time for the New Year.
City Hall staff bill summary:
- limits the amount a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit and non- refundable move-in fees to the amount of the first full month’s rent;
- includes an allowance for a separate pet deposit, limited to 25% of the first full month’s rent;
- allows tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees and last month’s rent in installments;
- adds requirements for the return or retention of security deposits, including requirements for providing a move-in checklist;
- updates requirements for local and state regulations that must be included in a summary prepared by SDCI;
- adds authority for SDCI to enforce the regulations included in this chapter;
- requests a study of these requirements, completed by the Office of City Auditor; and
- requires that SDCI work with the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and the Department of Neighborhoods on outreach and education to better inform limited English proficient communities and immigrant and refugee communities about these regulations.
A roster of six amendments (PDF) will also be considered Tuesday morning including one from Juarez that would change the legislation to create “a tiered enforcement scheme” specifying how the city will handle complaints.