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City Council limits Seattle renter move-in costs

The Kshama Sawant-led ordinance limits what landlords can charge


In a city where affordable housing is limited and the ability to pay for available housing is tough for many, the Seattle City Council just enacted a new ordinance that makes life a little bit easier for those looking to rent.

Monday, the council voted unanimously to pass Kshama Sawant’s proposed legislation that caps move-in money Seattle landlords are allowed to charge while also giving renters the right to pay move-in costs in installments rather than a required lump sum.

Now, the combined cost of a security deposit and nonrefundable move-in fees cannot be more than the amount of the first month’s rent. The ordinance also limits pet-damage deposits to 25 percent of the first month rent amount. If a renter wishes to pay those move-in costs in installments, they can work out a plan with their landlords, who are required to do so.

It’s a huge win for not just low-income Seattle renters but even those are middle-income levels as well. The requirement of some landlords to put up first and last month rent as well as security deposits and/or fees was limiting the ability of many renters to get their foot in the door.

Opponents of the ordinance say that it puts smaller property owners in a bind. Without the needed cash upfront or the full amount of move-in fees, they’ll either be forced to raise rents or sell their properties to bigger developers. Others argue that oftentimes the landlords are the ones struggling more than the tenants and this widens that gap.