Seattle First in Time Ordinance


A new Seattle landlord-tenant law limits landlords’ discretion in rental decisions for residential rental properties.  Under the new law, Seattle residential landlords must accept essentially all forms of alternative income and accept the first applicant who qualifies. The measure was supported by Seattle Mayor Murray, who pointed in supporting the measure that alternative income includes even stop-gap, emergency “short-term rental assistance…used to prevent eviction.”

Alternative income sources include any “lawful, verifiable income” whether short or long term.

The landlord must provide to each rental applicant notice of the landlord’s screening criteria. The notice must include:

• the criteria the landlord will use to screen prospective occupants and the minimum threshold for each criterion that the potential tenant must meet, including any criteria that will be used related to the landlord’s use consideration of criminal records.
• all information, documentation, and other submissions necessary for the landlord to conduct the screening
• information explaining how to request additional time to complete an application.

The landlord is obligated to note the date and time of receiving completed rental applications. All rental applications must be screened in chronological order.

If an application is missing information, the landlord may not deem the application incomplete. The landlord is obligated to notify the prospective tenant what additional information is needed and provide at least 72 hours for the prospective tenant to provide the information. If the prospective tenant provides the additional information by the stated deadline, the prospective tenant keeps their place in line.

A Seattle landlord under this new law must “offer tenancy of the available unit to the first prospective occupant meeting all the screening criteria.”

The law goes into effect January 1, 2017.