I am pleased to announce that King County Superior Court Judge Susanne Parisien has struck down the first-come, first-served law adopted by Seattle City Council in 2016. The ruling means Seattle must immediately stop enforcing the law adopted by City Council as it has been found to violate the state constitution.
The law required landlords to choose among qualified applicants based on a first-come, first served basis, meaning that the landlord needed to choose the first applicant who met the landlord-set criteria rather than choosing the best applicant that met the landlord-set criteria. The Judge said, “choosing a tenant is a fundamental attribute of property ownership”.
The reason I am so relieved and excited to hear this has been overturned is because many of my clients are investors and landlords in Seattle and I myself, as an investor, was concerned about the far-reaching implications of this law.
My goal as a landlord is to find the best tenant for my property; one who will pay their rent on time, take great care of my property, and stay for a long time. That may be the first applicant or it may be the 10th applicant, but I as a landlord and property owner and investor need to be the one making the decision about who is the best candidate to rent my property. It is not for the City to make a sweeping law that takes my rights away and inhibits my ability to put the best person in my properties.
Fair Housing law already protects potential tenants from a wide range of discrimination. The problem with this law has always been that it attempted to do something that the City needs to be doing in another way. For example, if the City is concerned about rental inventory and affordable housing perhaps they need to focus their attention on creating more of it.
“While landlords are permitted to set their own rental criteria,” Parisien said, “this preliminary, general rental criteria does not substitute for the discretion to choose a specific tenant.”
I am glad that my clients spoke up about this issue. Although this was a local issue that you may not care about, but whether you are reading this in Atlanta, Topeka, or Miami, the message is that you do need to understand what is happening locally in terms of housing is important. If there is a law that is passed that is not in the best interests of your local homeowners, investors, and the public you need to speak up. In the case of the law above, the intent of the law was to protect the public, but it didn’t do a good job of balancing the needs of the renting public with the rights of investors and landlords. Remember, just because a law has been passed doesn’t mean it can’t be overturned.