Move-in fees legislation passes out of committee

Today the Energy and Environment Committee passed an amended version of Council member Sawant’s proposed ordinance, capping move-in fees and requiring landlords to offer an option for paying those fees in installments.

(see my preview from yesterday)

In attendance at the meeting were committee chair Sawant, along with Council members Juarez, Gonzalez, O’Brien, Johnson, and Herbold.

The meeting began with an hour of public comment, with impassioned pleas from tenants and their advocacy groups to pass the bill, and equally impassioned pleas from landlords and their advocacy groups to scrap it — or at least to exempt small-scale landlords.

The landlords didn’t get their way. As expected, the six prepared amendments all passed unanimously, along with a last-minute seventh amendment that removed some unnecessary language that was in conflict with state law.

In response to allegations that they wanted to water down the bill’s tenant protections at the request of landlords, a few of Sawant’s colleagues took time to explain why they voted to return the bill to committee, highlighting the improvements that their sponsored amendment made to the ordinance.

The Council members also noted that in anticipation of the bill’s passage they included in the 2017-2018 budget funds for the City Auditor to evaluate the impact of the law both for tenants and landlords — and Herbold clarified today that the evaluation should distinguish between large-scale and small-scale landlords, a point of concern raised often in the public comment session.

The final, amended bill passed out of committee by a 6-0 vote. It goes in front of the full Council for adoption into law on December 12th.

Congratulations to Sawant and her colleagues on the Council for taking the time to do it right — and for not inviting activists or lobbyists to sit at the table with them this time. They created a stronger ordinance that addressed some of the landlords’ concerns without weakening tenant protections or introducing loopholes.

You can watch the video of today’s meeting on the Seattle Channel.