Seattle First in Time Law Upheld

The controversial Seattle First in Time law was recently upheld by the Washington Supreme Court.

Under the First in Time law, Seattle landlords seeking to fill vacant residential tenancies must provide notice of their rental criteria, screen applications in chronological order, and offer the tenancy to the first qualified applicant, subject to certain exceptions.

Notice of rental criteria. 

The landlord must first “provide notice to a prospective occupant” of “the criteria the owner will use to screen prospective occupants and the minimum threshold for each criterion,” as well as “all information, documentation, and other submissions necessary for the owner to conduct screening.”

Chronological screening. 

The landlord must note the date and time when the owner receives a completed rental application and screen completed rental applications in chronological order. If the landlord needs more information than was stated in the notice, the landlord must notify the prospective occupant in writing, by phone, or in person of what additional information is needed.

First qualified applicant. 

The landlord must “offer tenancy of the available unit to the first prospective occupant meeting all the screening criteria necessary for approval of the application.” The first qualified applicant has 48 hours to accept the offer of tenancy. Id. If the applicant does not accept, “the owner shall review the next completed rental application in chronological order until a prospective occupant accepts the owner’s offer of tenancy.”

Potential tenants with disabilities may seek additional time to submit a complete rental application.

Exceptions. 

The First in Time law does not apply “to an accessory dwelling unit or detached accessory dwelling unit wherein the owner or person entitled to possession thereof maintains a permanent residence, home or abode on the same lot.”

A landlord does not have to offer tenancy to the first qualified applicant if the owner “is legally obligated to” or “voluntarily agrees to set aside the available unit to serve specific vulnerable populations.”

Enforcement. 

A tenant who believes the First in Time law was violated may file a formal complanit with the City of Seattle, or sue the landlord in Superior Court. In court, if the tenant may seek injuctions, actual damages including emotional distress, and attorney fees.

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