Landlords in Seattle are subject to federal, state and local fair housing laws. It’s critical that you are up to date and well informed when it comes to fair housing requirements, otherwise you can get into a lot of legal and financial trouble. Discriminating against protected groups of tenants is not only illegal and unethical; it’s also a poor business practice.
According to the federal Fair Housing Act and the state Washington Law Against Discrimination, a landlord cannot refuse to rent a property to an applicant because of:
Gender or Gender Identity
The best way to avoid any appearance of discrimination is to screen every single applicant the same way. Establish a list of standards that each potential tenant has to meet in order to qualify for your rental. Put those standards in writing and provide them to interested renters before they even apply. You are permitted to make judgments and deny an application based on credit standards and criminal backgrounds. However, you cannot deny your rental apartment to an applicant because she has children and you think the place would be better for a single professional. You cannot rent your single family house to married couples only and you cannot hint at any preferences in your advertising.
In the city of Seattle, you are also legally prohibited from discriminating against Section 8 tenants. If someone applies to live in your property and will pay for all or part of the rent with a Section 8 voucher, you have to consider that tenant the same way you would consider any other tenant. You aren’t required to reduce your rent for Section 8 tenants and you can still screen those applicants the same way you would screen any other applicant.
Enforcement of fair housing laws is carried out by a number of state, federal and local agencies. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a claim that you discriminated against someone in your application or advertising practices. If you’re not sure how these laws pertain to you and your rental property, talk to a property manager or a legal expert right away.
Fair housing is serious, so if you have any questions about how to ensure you are compliant, please contact us at Dave Poletti & Associates. Our property managers stay up to date on all the national and local fair housing laws, and we would be happy to help you.