Seattle adds more protections for renters including roommate rights, payment options

Though most of the Seattle City Council’s focus this week will be on pounding down additions — and a few subtractions? — to the mayor’s proposed $6.5 billion 2020 budget, Monday’s full council session finished up some key legislation to help Seattle renters.

Monday, the council passed five new bills increasing tenant rights and adding new requirements for landlords: Continue reading

Rent Control 101

The rent is too damn high! Seattle rents have risen by over 50% since 2010, leaving renters facing unaffordable rents, displacement, and homelessness. We’re now the 4th most expensive city in America. Though citywide market rate rents have stabilized somewhat, many tenants continue to face unpredictable and unaffordable rent increases and economic eviction. Rent control provides renters with stability in their housing but is currently prohibited by Washington State law.

Join the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative and Councilmember Sawant to learn more about rent control, how it fits into a housing agenda that prioritizes renters, and how to win rent control in Seattle and Washington State. Seattle and WA renters deserve predictable, stable, and equitable rents.

We will be meeting in the Pike/Pine room in the 12th Ave Arts building. Food and light refreshments will be provided. The venue is ADA-accessible, with step-free access to the second floor via an elevator. Please RSVP so we can adequately plan for the number of attendees.

City Council: Seattle renters get more time to pay owed rent

Seattle Public School kids aren’t the only ones back in session this week. The Seattle City Council returned from its summer break Tuesday with votes approving legislation to help out bikers and renters.

In one set of votes at Tuesday afternoon’s full council session, members approved a suite of updates to provide renters with more protections including a vote updating the City of Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to “harmonize the City’s regulations with amendments to the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Under the changes approved Tuesday, Seattle renters will see the time given tenants to respond to a notice to pay or vacate increased from three to 14 days and tenants need to be notified of all rent increases at least 60 days in advance. Continue reading

New Seattle tenant protections would give renters earlier notification on sales, more time to make ends meet

Some residents at the Central District’s Chateau Apartments said they found about the building’s sale when organizers from Council member Kshama Sawant’s office showed up at their doors

Legislation to shift notification requirements for the sale of low-income housing will be on the agenda Thursday for a Seattle City Council committee while the mayor is rolling out changes she says will protect tenants from eviction and “help keep Seattle residents in their homes.”

The legislation, sponsored by citywide council member Teresa Mosqueda, would modify a 2015 measure that required owners of multifamily rental housing with five or more housing units — at least one of which rents affordably to a household at or below 80% area median income (AMI) — to provide written notice of the owner’s intent to sell the property to the city’s Office of Housing and the Seattle Housing Authority at least 60 days prior to being listed or advertised. This change looked to give these two bodies time to examine buying the property to keep its rental units affordable.

“In Seattle’s current real estate market, tenants and affordable housing providers often struggle to compete,” Mosqueda said in an emailed statement. “Many buyers come with cash in hand and buy up properties within days of being listed, and buildings are often sold without ever being listed at all—leaving few opportunities for lower-income buyers to get a foot in the door.” Continue reading

Court upholds Seattle’s pro-renter cap on move-in fees

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.


Renters dealt a blow as judge rules against Seattle’s ‘First-Come, First-Served Screening Practice’ law

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.

Rent bidding services not a Capitol Hill problem… yet

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

Capitol Hill renters group to send ‘housing justice’ Valentines to elected officials

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


Seattle City Council approves nation’s first Renters’ Commission

Council member Tim Burgess

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

Seattle Renters’ Commission bill sees early support in City Hall debut

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