Landlords sue over Seattle move in fee ordinance

SEATTLE — Jim Sykes proudly showed us around the three rental units he bought on this Ballard lot 2 decades ago.

They rent for between $1,500 and $900 dollars a month, he says. New renters pay first month's rent and a security deposit.

But in January, a new Seattle ordinance required landlords to spread that move-in payment over 6 months.

“This is the fact that you may have to wait 6 months to get your security deposit and they can up and leave just about any time if they want and never see them again and never get that and there can be substantial damage,” Sykes said.

Sykes is a member of the Rental Housing Association of Washington. Tuesday, the organization sued to block the city ordinance on grounds that it violates the laws against rent control and taking property.

“The effect of these provisions is that landlords must turn over possession of their rental properties to tenants before they have adequate security and before they have last month's rent,” said layer Josh Whited.

When the city council took up the ordinance last December, advocates complained that Seattle's expensive rents made it difficult to pay the move in fees all at once.

“When landlords create steep financial barriers to accessing housing you are only going to see the number of people who live in shelters increase,” said Xochitl Maykovich of Washington CAN.

Sykes says he's had good tenants, but wants to protect his investment.

“I just, we just need to be prudent in who we get in here, haven't had any problems, but don't want any either.”