Tenant rights bills pass out of committee

In one of the City Council’s final acts before it dives into the 2020 budget, this morning the Council passed a set of five tenant-rights bills out of committee, setting them up for final approval next Monday.

Here are the five bills:

  • A bill, several months in the works, that protects the survivors of domestic abuse from liability for damage to a unit by the perpetrator. After several prior hearings, this bill was almost ready to go, but got one final amendment to fine-tune its mitigation program for landlords. The changes this morning set some requirements for the landlords to be eligible for mitigation funds, and limit reimbursement to $1000 after a $500 deductible. Also, landlords must have submitted an insurance claim and had it rejected, must have registered their unit under the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, must have completed an inspection checklist and move-in, and must have repaired the damage.
  • A bill partially restricting a landlord’s ability to limit roommates and family members from occupying a tenant’s unit. This also received several amendments before being voted out of committee. Most of the amendments were technical and “cleanup,” but one substantive one narrowed the definition of “immediate family” to exclude people with past dating relationships or who had lived together in the past. The bill was also amended to require the landlord to be notified of who is occupying the unit.
  • A bill requiring several of the required notices that landlords may send tenants (e.g. rent increases, eviction notices, or entering a unit) to contain information about where the tenant can find information about their rights.
  • A bill requiring landlords to accept non-electronic forms of payment, and to provide receipts for payments.
  • A bill requiring landlords to register under the city’s Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance before issuing a notice to terminate a tenancy. Under current laws, the landlord may register anytime before the judge issues an eviction notice; this bill pushes the requirement earlier.

All five bills were sponsored by Council member Lisa Herbold. Council member Kshama Sawant, who in recent years has promised a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights,” was a no-show today (and at past hearings on these bills), apparently focusing her efforts on passing a rent control bill that she unveiled last night.



  1. I cannot believe the language in the bill about limiting landlord’s right to restrict roommates! Is it legal to do this?? Striking fear into the heart of this small landlord!

    “Any rental agreement entered into after the effective date of the ordinance introduced as Council Bill 119606 shall be deemed to allow occupancy by the tenants, a tenant’s family or household members, an additional person who is not the tenant’s family or household member, and the additional person’s family or household members, provided the total number of persons does not exceed occupancy limits established by federal, state, or local law. If one of the tenants or persons who is not the tenant vacates or abandons the unit, a landlord shall not reduce the number of persons allowed to occupy the unit.”

    1. I don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it is challenged in court — it’s another test case for fundamental property rights for landlords.

      1. There are many angles on it. As a female landlord, I’m struck by how they do not consider the #metoo angle. I don’t have a property manager and a legal team. We try to do everything above board. But if the hairs on the back of my neck go up and if warning signs show up on people’s background re: criminal or behavioral activity, that is something I need to keep in mind from a safety and business standpoint. I am obligated to provide housing to anyone who says they are a family or “household” member of a tenant? I need to be able to enter the premises alone and check on things like a furnace in a basement. With respect for all laws around discrimination, at a certain point I also have a right to decide what my “business” as a landlord is capable of handling or the risk/liability becomes too much, financially, emotionally, physically.

        I’m amazed at how far this council is pushing things and what the unintended impacts might be on otherwise liberal/progressive small landlords, once they realize the extent of new/proposed legislation. Council seemed to entirely ignore the UW study that many landlords participated in a year or two ago. Not sure who they listen to, but it isn’t small landlords and their actions won’t make it easier for other Seattleites to become and remain small landlords (which I thought was one of their intentions, in dealing with the affordability crisis).

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