• 23 Seattle property owners accused of rental housing discrimination

    Updated:

    Director's charges of illegal discrimination have been filed against 23 property owners by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

    A director's charge is not a criminal charge.
     
    An investigation found that prospective renters experienced different treatment from Seattle landlords across all three categories that were tested: familial status, disability and use of a federal Section 8 voucher. 

    KIRO 7 News asked the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) for the list of locations. See it on the map below. 


    For familial status, some landlords provided less information about rental units to testers who said they had children than they did to testers who said they did not have children.
     
    The department also found one manager advertised for "professional tenants only."

    In the disability tests, some landlords refused to allow a service animal, refused to waive pet fees or hung up repeatedly when they received a call from the Washington state relay service.

    One landlord, Frank Song, said he found out he was accused of hanging up on a call from the Washington state relay service.
     
    “This doesn’t make any sense,” Song said. He told KIRO 7 he does not remember hanging up on such a call. He guessed that if he inadvertently did so, he might have mistaken the call for a telemarketer.
     
    “Sometimes you pick up the phone, there’s no ‘hello, hello’ – and no sound on the other end. You think it’s either harassment or a sales call,” Song said.
     
    He told KIRO 7 that in his conversation with SOCR, he was not accused of any other discrimination.
     
    On the subject of Section 8 vouchers, KIRO 7 has covered efforts by housing advocates to prevent such discrimination across the state.
     
    But that bill did not pass in the recent legislative session.

    Discriminating based on Section 8 voucher status is currently illegal in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, unincorporated King County, Tumwater and Vancouver, Washington.
     
    In this latest test, the city found some landlords refused to respond to applicants who mentioned using a Section 8 voucher or simply turned away Section 8 applicants.

    Last year, undercover “renters” working for the city of Seattle found discrimination at 13 properties across the city. Those incidents were rooted in discrimination based on race and sexual orientation. 

    In that case, 12 out of the 13 charged ended up settling with the city. They paid to reimburse the city’s costs for testing their respective properties, which resulted in about $700 per property. Some also paid $1,000 toward the city’s outreach and education efforts.
     

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