In an effort to make housing more equitable, Seattle City Council passed legislation in 2016 requiring landlords to accept the first tenant application received that met their minimum rental criteria. Much of the reasoning behind it was to prevent a landlord from exhibiting bias, whether intentional or not.
This "first in time" Seattle City Ordinance, that was officially put into effect last year, was just struck down as being unconstitutional by a King County Superior Court Judge. This Seattle Times article illustrates the arguments coming from both sides of the table.
The 'first come - first served' ordinance was just one in a string of laws levied against landlords by Seattle City Council, and supporters of Seattle City Council's efforts still have many other recent laws to hang their hats on, including:
- A cap on move-in fees to no more than one month's rent, leaving smaller scale landlords more exposed to the damage some tenants do to a home - opponents note that one month's rent, for example, won't cover replacing carpet and repainting the interior after a tenant trashes a house.
- A recent moratorium placed on rent-bidding websites, which create an auction like setup to the rental process, allowing tenants to bid on what they're willing to pay, either lower or higher than the offered rent. The concern there was that landlords would accept who can pay the most, and the moratorium all but kissed a "free market" goodbye.
- The inability for a landlord to perform a criminal background check, with the exception of those listed on the sex-offender registry. As a personal example, someone like myself is unable to keep a murderer or person with a history of domestic abuse out of the Seattle townhome that we first started our family in and recently converted to a rental, a townhome that is located next to a best friend of ours and on a street of neighbors we grew to care about.