What a time to be alive. If the city of Seattle has their way, landlords will be allowed to be picky about smokers, but not about arsonists. This is the reality of CB 119015 which Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold held a public hearing on.
You can read the full text of the CB 119015 presentation which is linked above. It begins by highlighting racial disparity in arrests and sentencing. You’re speaking right to my heart here. I’m a firm advocate of Criminal Justice Reform. But this isn’t that. And of course, there are the unfortunate instances of the wrong person being convicted. This is why I’m a firm opponent of Capital Punishment. But this isn’t that, either.
What we are talking about are Property Rights, and the right of the property owner to lease to whom they see best fit. A property owner should naturally have the right to lease to whichever applicant they see best fit, in their own interest and the interest of the community.
Here are some bullet points from the slides:
Landlords may not consider:
- Arrests that did not lead to conviction
- Pending criminal charges
- Convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed
- Juvenile records
- Status of a juvenile applicant/tenant on the sex offender registry
- Convictions older than 2 years
Everything we need to know is in the last bullet point. Convictions older than 2 years. I get it, you’re trying to force forgiveness. But who does this hurt, and who does this benefit? Hint: This is the conviction date, not the release date.
This allows a prospective landlord to take into consideration a crime within the last 2 years of a conviction date. So who does this hurt the most? It hurts people who were convicted of petty crimes with light sentences, or even time served. They have a longer way to go to reach that 2 year point. Now take into account someone who has committed a more egregious or violent crime who was sentenced to prison for 2 years or more. When they are released from prison, that 2 year post conviction period has been satisfied.
To put this simply, the city of Seattle is attempting to mandate that not only should lengthy criminal history not be an object, but that people convicted of major crimes ought to be prioritized over those convicted of minor crimes. Let’s also not pretend people who had longer prison sentences have been rehabilitated. Prison does no such thing.
But what will landlords be allowed to consider under this proposal?
Landlords may consider:
- Convictions less than 2 years old
- Status of an adult applicant/tenant on the Sex Offender Registry
- A landlord must have a legitimate business reason to deny, evict or take other adverse action based on a conviction older than 2 years or on status of an adult applicant on the Sex Offender Registry.
Why yes, landlords have a legitimate business reason to deny people on the Sex Offender Registry. They don’t want the woman in Apartment 213 to be raped. It’s in the landlord’s best interest to prevent such a scenario. Especially considering sexual predators are the least likely to rehabilitate.
Seattle, I understand you have good intentions. However you need to understand that’s what the road to hell is paved with. Let property owners decide who is allowed on their property.
When I moved out, I found a very reasonably priced two bedroom unit. So reasonably priced, it had a ton of applications. My problem was I didn’t have an established rental history, nor did I have any credit history. After being shown the property and submitting my application, I received a phone call from the landlord a few days later wishing me luck. She told me that the other applicants had history, so by default she would be selecting from that pool.
Three weeks later, I got a call from the same landlord asking me if I was still interested in the unit. Her reasoning was simple. “You were who I liked best,” she said.
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