Seattle’s new first-come, first-served policy for renters may not take effect until July 1. On Friday, the City Council will consider postponing the policy’s Jan. 1 start date.
Seattle’s new policy requiring landlords to select renters on a first-come, first-served basis may not take effect for another six months.
On Friday, the City Council will consider postponing the policy’s effective date from Jan. 1 to July 1.
The council approved the policy in August as part of an ordinance that also banned discrimination by landlords against renters who rely on alternative sources of income, such as Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits and unemployment insurance.
Under the policy, a landlord will be required to establish screening criteria, review applications in the order they get submitted and make offers in that order to renters who meet the criteria. Officials have said the policy is the first of its kind in the country.
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Proponents have said their goal is to ensure renters are treated equally: When landlords pick one among multiple qualified applicants, prejudices may come into play.
Some landlords opposed the August ordinance, saying they wanted to retain the right to use their own judgment in choosing among multiple qualified renters.
The Rental Housing Association of Washington already advises the landlords it represents to pick renters on a first-come, first-served basis. But the group has warned that Seattle’s new policy is poorly written and could have unintended consequences.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who sponsored the August ordinance, is now proposing that the first-come, first-serve policy’s effective date be pushed back.
On Thursday, a Herbold aide called the change a technicality, saying Herbold’s intention all along has been to use “soft rollout” — with no penalties for landlords right off the bat. Moving the effective date will facilitate that, said the aide, Andra Kranzler.
But Sean Martin, Rental Housing Association spokesman, said the postponement is needed because there are many outstanding questions about how the policy will work.
The Seattle Office of Civil Rights, which will enforce the policy, has been developing the detailed rules that will govern its implementation.
“This process has been rushed and a lot of questions haven’t been adequately answered,” Martin said. “Some of the details have taken a lot more time than people thought they would. The legislation was written without enough input from the industry.”
He added, “From our perspective, the delay points to this being a failed policy.”
The civil-rights office published draft rules last month and took public comments through Dec. 2. Elliott Bronstein, spokesman for the office, said the final rules are nearly complete and will be posted as soon as Friday.