On Thursday November 14, 2019 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Seattle’s First In Time rental law conforms to the state constitution. The law was passed in 2016 but has not been enforced pending legal challenges. While Pacific Legal Foundation (a nonprofit) has indicated that it will appeal the case to the US Supreme Court, landlords in Seattle would be wise to get educated on the implications of the law and begin complying immediately.
New Law Overview
Broadly, the legislation requires landlords to do the following:
- Post specific criteria that will be used in tenant selection whenever and wherever they advertise an open unit.
- Accept the first applicant who meets these criteria.
- Document the time and date an application is received.
- Grant additional time to complete the application upon request, to individuals who need it due to English language limitations or disabilities.
Know the law and how to comply
We have compiled resources we believe to be helpful in learning about the law and how to comply with it:
- Full text of the legislation. Note: Bundled with the First in Time (FIT) law is a requirement that “alternative sources of income” be accepted when evaluating whether an applicant meets income criteria.
- Washington Multifamily Housing Association’s “Seattle Landlord-Tenant Law Cheat Sheet”. Also outlined in this document are many other Seattle-specific rental laws that all landlords should know about.
- Rental Association of Washington discussion of the new law when it was first passed in 2016. RHAWA is an invaluable resource to landlords who need to keep abreast of constantly changing Seattle – and Washington – rental laws. Members receive discounted pricing on educational seminars, access to updated forms, as well as many other useful tools.
- Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) article on the problems with the FIT law. PLF is a nonprofit which has represented those who have been suing the city of Seattle. Research Yim v. City of Seattle on the PLF website.
- Crosscut article:
- Seattle Times Articles:
- Seattle’s new ordinance cracks down on discrimination against renters, ends discounts tied to workplace. 8/8/16
Critically important in navigating Seattle’s First In Time rental law is the development of a screening criteria checklist. Read more about that and get a sample checklist here.
When in doubt, consult a legal professional. RocketLawyer is one good resource, offering the advice of staff attorneys as well as forms such as leases and eviction notices.
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