Landlords had challenged the law, in one of several court cases ongoing between apartment owners and the city of Seattle over recent regulations concerning the local rental market.
A judge has upheld a recent Seattle law that limits the money renters have to pay when they move into a new place, rejecting a lawsuit by local landlords.
A City Council measure that took effect in January 2017 limited deposits and nonrefundable fees to one month’s rent, and pet fees to an additional one-fourth of monthly rent. It also allowed those costs to be paid in installments over six months.
The Rental Housing Association of Washington, a local landlord group, sued in May 2017 to overturn the law, arguing it violated the state’s ban on rent control.
King County Superior Court Judge Susan Amini ruled this week in favor of the city, saying the city was free to regulate move-in fees because they are different than rent. She cited the dictionary definition of the word “rent” and the language of the state rent control ban, which refers to rent as “periodic payments.”
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“Other payments that a landlord may require from a tenant, such as one-time payments to secure move-in rights or as a security deposit, do not fall under the meaning of ‘rent,’” Amini wrote in her 12-page ruling signed Wednesday.
The landlords also argued that the move-in fee cap violated multiple parts of the state and U.S. constitutions that forbid the taking of property and require due process, but Amini ruled against those arguments, as well.
“The City Council sought to aid renters by limiting upfront payments and allowing payment plans to help more people access apartments that might otherwise be out of reach,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “I’m gratified the judge looked at this complicated legal terrain and agreed the City remained well within its bounds when taking these steps to protect Seattle’s tenants.”
Sean Martin, executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, said the group hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal and had no comment on the ruling.
Various landlord groups are also battling the city in court over other recent City Council measures, most notably the city’s law requiring landlords to accept the first qualified tenant.