New Seattle Housing Ordinance: “First-In-Time” Applicant Policy - Update

The Seattle City Council has passed a new housing ordinance, which requires residential landlords to screen rental applications in chronological order and award the lease to the first eligible applicant. Failure to abide by the “first-in-time” policy can be deemed an “Unfair Housing Practice” for which offending landlords would be liable. This ordinance went into effect January 1, 2017.

The “first-in-time” requirement is just one of several measures implemented per the recommendation of the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (“HALA”) Advisory Committee. This ordinance also creates requirements which are intended to prevent discriminatory practices affecting those who may use subsidies or alternative sources of income to pay rent. The ordinance also requires landlords to calculate subsidies and alternative sources of income when applying income screening criteria. The ordinance also forbids landlords from advertising or otherwise showing preference for tenants or tenant-applicants who mainly rely on traditional sources of income or employment. The first-in-time ordinance appears to be the beginning of Seattle’s larger initiative to make housing more affordable and inclusive.

HousingCurrent landlords, real estate developers, and prospective tenants alike may find themselves overwhelmed by the swift economic and political changes which have impacted housing in the greater Seattle metropolitan area in just the past few years. Landlords have widely benefited from the fastest growing rent growth in the nation, but should also be aware of the broad government regulations that may differ at the city, county, or state level.

If you have questions about landlord-tenant matters, please contact one of the attorneys in MPBA’s Real Estate Department.