Bill would make Seattle landlords pay when tenants are priced out

Last week, Crosscut reported that city councilor Kshama Sawant announced said she’d introduce legislation that would make landlords pay for tenants’ relocation when their rent gets too high.

Currently, the city only requires 30 days notice for a rent increase, or 60 days if the increase is more than 10 percent within a one-year period. With a statewide ban on rent control in Washington State, there’s no actual limit to how much a landlord can raise rent.

Under Sawant’s proposal, if the rent increases 10 percent or more within a one-year period and the tenant moves, the landlord would have to pay for three months of rent to help the tenant relocate. The ordinance would only apply to tenants making 80 percent of area median income or below, or about $50,000 a year.

A similar ordinance passed in Portland back in February, requiring landlords to pay an amount based on apartment size for both no-cause evictions and for moves prompted by rent increases.

Because rent control is also illegal in Oregon, the ordinance went to court, with landlords alleging that the ordinance is essentially rent control. While a judge ruled in the city’s favor—that the measure does not violate the state’s rent control ban—in July, landlords appealed the decision the next month.

The ordinance is also similar to Seattle’s existing Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, which has a lower income threshold—around $30,000—and applies to remodels and demolitions.

The ordinance isn’t finished yet, so it’s unclear when it will be introduced to council.