Seattle law strips landlords of choice of tenants

Appalling: a new law in Seattle aims to strip property owners of all choice among tenant applicants, requiring them to take the first comer who meets their preannounced guidelines. Does it violate the Constitution? The Pacific Legal Foundation intends to find out on behalf of Chong and MariLyn Yim. [Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times] When the law was under consideration, a council member objected — on the grounds that the city should instead consider requiring the owners to institute a lottery, rather than a first-come-first-served rule. Part of the rationale of the law is to combat “unconscious bias” [Ethan Blevins, PLF] More: Jeb Kinnison in August.


  • First, what about people like members of the Jewish faith who cannot conduct business on the Sabbath? If you advertise a property starting on the Sabbath, aren’t you in fact discriminating on the basis or religion?

    Secondly, you have a person that answers the ad and gives you an application that technically says they qualify for the apartment despite being a convicted felon (disparate impact, you know) not having a job (subsidized housing allowance) and had been evicted several times in the past.

    Later that same day, some nice couple with the money, income, stability and rental history calls but a landlord has to rent to the first person because he got their first while the other couple was working?

    This is another overreach by the government. As long as the person is not breaking any laws of discrimination against people, it is none of the government’s business who a landlord rents to. In fact, I believe a case can be made that this law basically not only says “we the government own your property” but also “we the government think that there never should be any personal responsibility that can ever affect your interaction when it comes to business.”

    This is a law with lawyers chomping at the bit to sue landlords who are looking out for their properties.

  • What if the new renter commits a series of crimes centered around the rented property? Can the police confiscate and keep the property for being ‘a place of criminal activity’ if the owner had no choice in who rented from them?

  • My pre-announced guidelines would include passing my Ouija board test.

    Don’t scoff, you’ll get better tenants with it than without it, thereby demonstrating its validity.

  • You get more of what you subsidize and less of what you regulate. expect higher rents, more requirements for renters, and fewer properties for rent. Sorry, you don’t have at least an 820 credit rating, no rent to you! Someone should challenge this sort of nonsense under the takings clause…

    • From the original link: “The lawsuit says the city’s policy amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property and violates due-process and free-speech protections.” It also describes the suit as being filed under the state constitution, so one possible inference is that the suit cites a provision in the Washington state constitution that is parallel to the U.S. Constitution’s takings clause.

  • Sounds like Seattle is soon gonna find it needs to amend its voting and hiring laws too.