A Kshama Sawant-driven cap on move-in fees that can be charged to renters in Seattle has been upheld by a King County Superior Court judge.
The Seattle City Council approved legislation capping fees in fall 2016 but the new law has been tied up in court by a lawsuit brought be the pro-landlord Rental Housing Association of Washington group.
Under the measure from the District 3 representative, landlords can only charge tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and need to allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments.
The legislation was driven by research conducted by the Washington Community Action Network, an advocacy organization working on housing justice, conducted a survey study on Seattle’s housing crisis. Researchers found almost 90% of respondents said that the biggest barrier to moving into more affordable housing was the prohibitively expensive up-front fees a landlord can charge a new tenant.
It’s not clear what’s next for the cap law. The landlord advocacy group hasn’t said yet if it plans to appeal the ruling.
One of the key elements in a legislative package of renter protections passed in Seattle in the summer of 2016 has been struck down in King County Superior Court.
The “first-in-time,” “First-Come, First-Served Screening Practice” legislation required landlords to, as it was described in the Seattle City Council’s press release that summer, “review applications one at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis” in order to prevent “housing providers from giving applicants with alternative sources of income a lower priority.”
Tuesday, a judge sided with a suit brought by the Rental Housing Association and a group of land owners agreeing that the law infringed on property and speech rights.
The City of Seattle is expected to appeal the ruling.
It will have more legal work on its hands defending other legislative efforts to give tenants greater protections in Seattle’s rough and tumble — and hugely profitable — rental market. A move-in fee cap championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant also faced nearly immediate legal challenge. And a recent decision to temporarily ban the use of rent bidding services in the city is also entangled in the “first-in-time” decision.
Like most things newfangled, the problem seems to be first hitting the young renters of Seattle’s University District. But judging by other cities in the West Coast archipelago of tech economy driven urban boomtowns, the early effects of the new revenue models are probably already rippling through Capitol Hill’s rental market.
Thursday morning, Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda’s Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee will be discussing a new trend threatening to add to the city’s affordability crisis: landlords using online services for “rent bidding.”
According to the session set to be presented Thursday, the ASUW Student Senate is calling for a moratorium on “Rent Bidding Services.” One report on the Rentberry service quoted the company’s founder taking credit for raising rents 5% above listing prices in the already ultra-expensive San Francisco and San Jose markets.
CHS could find only one Rentberry listing on Capitol Hill — a “cozy Capitol Hill home” listed at a starting rent of $7,500 per month. How does the service work? Here’s the marketing pitch:
Tired of secretive bids? Rentberry is the only platform that provides a transparent rental auction with the ability to submit custom offers. See the current highest proposal and the number of people who applied for the property, so you can make an informed decision.
What could the city council do about the new services? Check out Seattle’s plans to regulate the Airbnb-driven short-term rental market here. Meanwhile, this 12th Ave building stands alone thanks to a very special exception in the rules.
The full presentation document from Thursday’s planned briefing on rent bidding services is below. Continue reading
The Capitol Hill Renters Initiative, the community group formed to help give renters a voice in the city’s political and development processes, wants to spread some love this Valentine’s Day to local elected officials and community organizations about “housing justice and related issues.”
Capitol Hill Renters Initiative – General Meeting
The group’s February meeting naturally falls on Valentine’s Day so it plans to spend a portion of the night eating chocolate and making Valentines using postcards from neighborhood artist — and renter — Myra Lara. Lara is also a member of the CHRI leadership committee.
If you’re interested in getting involved, next week’s meeting should be a fun way to check out the group. They’ll also be be talking safe consumption sites. Bring some ideas for creative poetry — “Mike O’Brien, how do i love thee? Let me count the ways…” — and a pen. You can also borrow some inspiration from CHS.
CHS Comics | Capitol Hill Valentines
Council member Tim Burgess
Applause followed the City Council’s unanimous approval of an ordinance creating a Seattle Renters’ Commission on Monday.
“This was truly a grassroots effort that started up on Capitol Hill and will now benefit the entire city of Seattle,” Council member and prime sponsor Tim Burgess said.
“We just want to give renters a formal voice here at City Hall,” he said. “… Renters need landlords and landlords need renters, so if this commission can help bridge that relationship then that will be a positive move for our city.” Continue reading
- Zachary DeWolf
- Sierra Hansen
- Joel Sisolak
The proposed Seattle Renters’ Commission made its debut in the City Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee meeting last week. Early signs indicate good support for the proposed 15-member commission that aims to give renters in the city a voice on not only tenant rights and affordability but also related issues like transportation access and economic development.
“There’s a lot of issues that touch renters and they’re not often at the table,” said Sera Day, legislative assistant to council member Tim Burgess, prime sponsor of the ordinance.
“As rents continue rising, it’s critical that renters are given space to engage city government with a strong and organized voice,” Capitol Hill Community Council president Zachary DeWolf said Friday. “… This ordinance will create a platform for renters to get engaged in civic life and fully invest in their neighborhoods and ultimately our city of Seattle.”
Sierra Hansen, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support of the commission.
“I think that this is an amazing effort among Capitol Hill residents that will benefit folks across Seattle,” Hansen said. Continue reading
Friday morning, the Seattle City Council is taking its first steps toward forming a first of its kind commission to represent renters at City Hall. Formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission comes as rents for the first time in ages appear to possibly be softening on Capitol Hill — but immediately lower rents aren’t necessarily the goal. The city is going to need political help widening the new apartment pipeline to keep new construction in motion and new apartments coming into the Seattle market.
“Rising rents are pushing residents out of the city, and that’s unacceptable,” Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien representing Northwest Seattle’s District 6 said. “Low-income renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to be displaced by gentrification. I believe that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring much needed perspective to our policy work about how we can grow equitably and inclusively.”
O’Brien is talking about lots of things — Source of Income Discrimination and Move In Fees legislation, enforcement of existing laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance — but he is also, of course talking about HALA. Continue reading
Last summer, CHS reported on progress in easing the construction of backyard rentals to help combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The progress has since ground to a halt. Wednesday, the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative and Latino LGBTQ nonprofit Entre Hermanos are teaming up for a movie night and discussion at 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum to sort out how the groups “can take action on backyard cottages and other housing justice campaigns” —
Housing Justice Movie Night-Quinceañera
This event was created in response to the recent decision by the Seattle hearing examiner to indefinitely delay an ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages (legally called Detached Accessory Dwelling Units or DADUs) like the home the main characters share in the movie. The hearing examiner decision came after a legal challenge by the Queen Anne Community Council, a neighborhood group that hired attorneys in order to delay these low cost housing options from coming to their neighborhood.
You can register for a “ticket” to the event here. The screening is free but organizers are asking for a $3 donation to help cover costs.
CHS wrote here last month on the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative’s goals for 2017.
Wednesday night on Capitol Hill includes two different tenant rights meetings. Maybe 2017 really is the year of the renter.
To start the new year, CHS told you about a new series of free bootcamps to hep educate tenants across Seattle. The first Be:Seattle Tenant Rights Bootcamp is Wednesday night from 6:30 to 8:00 PM at Summit Ave’s Top Pot.
Wednesday also brings the monthly gathering of a longer-term effort to help politically — and tactically — organize tenants on Capitol Hill. Alex Brennan of Capitol Hill Housing’s EcoDistrict effort tells CHS the nonprofit is looking forward to the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative growing more and more independent in 2017 starting with its first meeting of the new year from 6 to 7 PM at 12th Ave Arts.
“The big thing is we’re moving towards renters taking on more leadership and more responsibility from Capitol Hill Housing staff,” Brennan said. Continue reading