Seattle Proposes Another Ordinance Requiring Landlords to Provide Voting Information

by | Jun 7, 2017

The Seattle City Council is proposing another ordinance putting yet another requirement on landlords in the city this time to provide information to tenants about how to register to vote and how to update voter registration information.

Under a new ordinance proposed this week, landlords would have to provide new tenants with voter-registration information. Landlords are already are required to give tenants a packet of information on housing laws that’s prepared by the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections, according to reports.

The Rental Housing Association of Washington has already sued the City of Seattle over other ordinances that place a burden on landlords, and the association says in a tweet this is just one more.

“How many more pieces of paper will Seattle require landlords to give renters? Will notebooks be provided? the association asked in a tweet.

According to a summary by City Council central staff, voter turnout is lower among people who have moved recently. They cite census data that says only 21 percent of those who have lived in their current residence for less than a year reported voting.

Ordinance to require landlords to give tenants voting information

The ordinance states, “Currently, landlords are required to give tenants and prospective tenants a summary, prepared by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), that provides information on the state and City landlord tenant laws. This legislation will require that SDCI include information about how to register to vote or update voter registration information in these summaries and landlords will be required to provide this information to tenants. Studies have shown that voter turnout is lower among people who have recently moved. Providing information to tenants at the time they are entering a new rental agreement may increase voter participation among tenants who have recently relocated.

“Landlords must distribute written summaries of rights and voter registration forms, prepared or distributed by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, to tenants and prospective tenants when a rental agreement is offered,” the ordinance states.

It’s too early to tell how long the new information would be, but the standard Washington State voter registration form, which includes information on how to register to vote and update voter registration, is two pages long—or just one page front and back, according to Curbed Seattle.

The SDCI “Information for Tenants” document, an overview of landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities, is currently 15 pages long, or eight front and back. That doesn’t include other papers required by state building code, which depend on which building it is—but those are required by the state, not the city, according to reports.

In the lawsuit already filed against the city over the prior ordinance on move-in fees, the Rental Housing Association of Washington said, “Taking legal action against the City of Seattle is an action not taken lightly, but one which was deemed necessary by our Board of Directors to protect the legal rights and interests of our membership, RHAWA Executive Director, Melany Brown, said in a release.

“Our preference is to work proactively with government, but the impacts of this ordinance on small, independent landlords is too great to ignore.”

About the Author

Bruce A. Kahn, CCIM, CPMBruce A. Kahn, , CCIM, CPM, Principal, Designated Broker, Foundation Group is a Managing Director of Foundation Group Investment Real Estate Solutions, a full-service property management and brokerage company. He has earned the designation of CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) issued by the CCIM Institute, and is a CPM (Certified Property Manager) with the IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management). For further information or for a property analysis, please contact him at 206-324-9424 or by email.