A judge has given landlords in Seattle permission to pick their own tenants, upending a rule imposed by the city that would have required them to rent to the first qualified person who arrived – all in an effort to eliminate “unconscious bias.”
WND reported when the fight erupted in 2017 with the imposition of a demand by the city landlords rent to the “first person” who submits a valid application.
Under Seattle’s “first-in-time” rule, a landlord must offer a rental unit to the “first person who submits an adequate application,” explained Ethan Blevins of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which sued over the Big Brother policy.
“This goes far beyond preventing intentional discrimination by banning choice across the board. No discretion, no chance to sift among potential tenants, no right to make a basic judgment call about who you want on your property for years to come. If the first person to apply is rude on the phone, too bad – you have to rent to them. If you notice a swastika tattooed on an applicant’s shoulder when he visits the unit, too bad – if he applied first, he gets the house. If someone who applied second, though, makes a good impression and needs a break, too bad – you have to reject them,” Blevins said.
The case was in King County Superior Court and named the city as a defendant. It was on behalf of Chong and Marilyn Yim, Kelly Lyles, Beth Bylund, CNA Aparements and Eileen LLC.
This week PLF revealed a judge has knocked down ordinance 125114.
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Blevins explained the trial judge said Seattle can’t deny landlords the right to choose their own tenants.
The city set up its “embargo on choice” to prevent landlords from basing rental decisions on “implicit bias,” the PLF explained.
“But landlords have many reasons to reject one tenant over another that have nothing to do with discrimination. Maybe the first qualified applicant made a racial slur when touring the house, or maybe the landlord wants to offer a break to a later applicant with a sympathetic story. Landlords aren’t grocery store clerks who spend only a handful of minutes with each customer. They have long-term relationships with their tenants and should have some say in who those people will be. Yet under the first-in-time rule, basic judgment calls were off limits as an ‘unfair practice’ under Seattle fair housing laws.”
The judge’s decision said “choosing a tenant is a fundamental attribute of property ownership.”
Judge Suzanne Parisien granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs.
“There is no genuine issue as to any material fact,” she wrote. The landlords challenged the ordinance and while it contained “a laudable goal,” she found “it is undisputed, and specifically acknowledged by the city, that the FIT rule affects a landlord’s ability to exercise discretion when deciding between potential tenants that may be based on factors unrelated to whether a potential tenant is a member of a protected class.”
The plaintiffs had claimed constitutional violations: taking property without compensation, taking their property for an improper public use, violation due process, and violating free speech.
She explained legal precedent has determined that the right to sell property is a “fundamental attribute of property ownership which cannot be taken without due process and payment of just compensation.”
She added, “Choosing a tenant is a fundamental attribute of property ownership.”
The rule by the city, she said, “imposes sweeping advertising restrictions on all Seattle landlords, restricting their speech without any individualized suspicion of disparate treatment. It forbids valuable speech activities like case-by-case negotiations and tells landlords how to communicate…”