The “first-come, first serve” law in Seattle has been ruled as a violation to the state constitution in late March, 2018. This law has been adopted in 2016 and been in effect since 2017 as a goal to eliminate biases in tenant placement decisions.
Plaintiffs claimed by forcing landlords to accept the first qualified applicant, it violated their property, due-process and free-speech rights. The judge sided with them regarding these points. This ruling means Seattle must stop enforcing the first-come, first-serve law.
Landlords can still have their own criteria for renting their properties so long as it does not violate fair housing laws. Landlords can still have their own first-come, first-serve law, it will just not be enforced by the state. The existing laws still prohibit landlords from choosing renters based on characteristics such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.
When these laws were first enacted, some landlords agreed with the rulings, while others planned to work around them, stating it would be difficult to enforce them. This has been debunked as recently the State of Washington investigated landlords who rejected Veterans’ housing vouchers with a sting operation. The investigation found that out of 50 investigations, 10 immediately rejected the veterans.
The city is currently attempting to control their rental housing demand cautiously by enforcing certain rental laws. As migration to Washington increases, Seattle is careful to balance supply and demand by learning from the housing crisis in San Francisco. The long term effects of these rental laws are uncertain. What we do know is that the state of Washington continues to become a popular moving destination as more companies in the area hire and housing becomes more scarce.