Seattle Council caps move-in costs for renters

government solve all problems

From With vocal support from housing activists and over the objections of landlords, the Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously approved strict measures to limit the move-in costs for prospective renters.

Under the new ordinance: A renter’s initial move-in costs will be capped at the first full month’s rent along with a partial payment of any additional fees; security deposits would be limited to a maximum equal to one month’s rent; and landlords will be required to offer a six-month plan that allows renters to pay installments on additional move-in fees, the security deposit, and last month’s rent.

The change in regulation, council members said, is an attempt to reduce the initial cost barrier for lower-income residents seeking rental units while still giving landlords financial security in an increasingly expensive city.

Seattle  Council President Tim Burgess

Seattle Council President Tim Burgess

“I view this legislation as fair to all parties and we’re justified in supporting it — even if we didn’t have a housing crisis,” council member Tim Burgess said. The legislation will take effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Murray signs it.

Under existing law, for example, an apartment that currently costs $2,000 monthly, including a $2,000 security deposit and $2,000 for the final month’s rent, might require a renter to provide $6,000 at move-in. Under the changed housing ordinance, the first month’s $2,000 could still be required up front along with one one-sixth of the additional costs, or approximately $660. The additional $3,340 balance would be split into payments over the next five months.

Gwendolyn Jimerson, who works with the Head Start program at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, said the changes won’t just affect renters pocketbooks; the changes will help public schools by allowing both children from low-income families and their teachers to remain in Seattle.


“We cannot do the best for our students when we have our students moving in and out of our city each and every year,” Jimerson said. “Educators here can’t afford to move or remain in the city of Seattle. We’re losing educators because we don’t have the capacity to maintain those who are paying extraordinary housing costs.”

But while housing advocates hailed the legislation as a step toward a fair housing market, the Rental Housing Association of Washington took a much dimmer view. Sean Martin, the association’s external affairs director, said the restrictions reduce private property rights, increase the financial exposure of landlords and, as a result, will have the opposite of the intended effect — repressing the rental market, not expanding it.

 “What you’re going to see is owners shift to risk mitigation,” Martin said, “which is either increasing the rent or increasing the screening criteria to a higher standard to ensure that the person who qualifies to get in the door is someone that is going to be very responsible.”

In other words, he said, small landlords — those with one or a handful of units — historically have offset the financial risk of renting to a person with a marginal financial history by requiring more money up front. This change will just make that same landlord not even consider that same person.

William Shadbolt, a landlord with 12 Seattle-based units, agreed. Shadbolt attended the raucous council meeting Monday afternoon. He said the change will simply worsen the Seattle housing crisis in two ways. First, capping the security deposit and requiring less money up front will simply make landlords unwilling to take a risks on renters with marginal finances, such as Section 8 subsidized renters.

“The fact is that the small landlord gets screwed again,” said Shadbolt, who owns 12 units in Seattle and Renton with rents that range from $900 to $1,600 monthly.

The council did exempt for one specific subset of landlords — those that live in the same residence as the one they are renting. The exemption to the new caps is largely geared toward landlords who are renting a room in their own house.


7 responses to “Seattle Council caps move-in costs for renters

  1. Why doesn’t the city just collect all the money and then give the landlords what they think is fair?
    Good Grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was a landlord and always got a security deposit up front. In this proposal what happens if a tenant does considerable damage in the first month then walks out? A full security deposit at least allows some recovery for damages.
    If this law applied to me you can bet I would do a serious background check of the tenets before they even signed the lease. Been there – done that!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And these Marxist idiots will wonder why there will be little rental property available. Folks will get so they only rent to people they know and trust.
    No sensible person will rent property they can sell, much less buy or build rental property. Retired folks with skills used to like buying distressed properties, fix them up for rental property, but not there.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have so much sympathy for poor Mr. Shadbolt. Why, what would the world ever do without a man who sits there and collects over $10,000 every month from people who actually work for a living?


    • And what exactly do you know of Mr. Shadbolt’s situation? How do you know he “sits” there while collecting his money? Did the homeowner fairy magically drop his rentals into his possession? Did Mr. Shadbolt never work a day in his life to acquire his rental properties? Did/does Mr. Shadbolt actually work for a living or does he have work fairies doing the work required to maintain and manage his properties?

      Why do you socialists/libtards/proggies envy successful people? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Seattle doing what Seattle does best, screwing up. I see lawsuits in the future. They are playing with people’s livehoods now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I bet there will soon be a bunch of condos on the market in Seattle.

    LOL – Re-modelers will be crying all the way to the bank off of this lunacy.

    Liked by 1 person

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