Seattle Fair Chance Housing Ordinance

The City of Seattle has passed the Seattle Fair Chance Housing ordinance, banning essentially all tenant criminal background checks. The new Seattle ordinance prohibits Seattle landlords from considering criminal background when screening potential tenants, with only narrow exceptions.[1]

Seattle landlords are required to give written notice to prospective occupants and tenants that the landlord it prohibited from requiring disclosure, asking about, rejecting an applicant, or taking an adverse action based on any arrest record, or conviction history, except information about sex offender registration.

Even for sex offender registration the Seattle Fair Chance Housing ordinance limits landlords. Landlords may not take any adverse action against a sex offender registrant who is a juvenile. Landlords cannot take adverse against an adult registered sex offender if the conviction occurred when the individual was a juvenile.

For other registered sex offenders, Seattle landlords must have a legitimate business reason for taking an adverse action. To establish a legitimate business reason as defined in the Seattle Fair Chance Housing ordinance, the landlord must take into account the nature and severity of the conviction; the number and types of convictions; the time elapsed since the conviction; the age at the time of the conviction; evidence of good tenant history before and/or after the conviction; and any supplemental information of rehabilitation and good conduct. The landlord may only review information included in the registry information.

The Fair Chance Housing ordinance exempts landlords who live in the same single family dwelling as the tenants and occupants, or where there is a accessory dwelling unit on the same lot and the landlord and tenants share the lot.[2]

The City has power to investigate alleged violations and impose penalties on landlords. The first violation can result in a penalty of up to $11,000, and up to $55,000 for repeat violations. Landlords may also be ordered to reinstate the tenancy, refund rent, and/or pay attorney fees.

A landlord penalized under the Fair Chance Housing ordinance has only 14 days to appeal the City’s decision to the Superior Court.

Landlords who have questions or are facing an allegation of a Fair Chance Housing violation should consult with an attorney immediately

[1] The law passed 8/23/17 goes into effect 1/20/18.
[2] The Fair Chance Housing ordinance as worded arguably arbitrarily excludes shared condominiums.

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