Displacement Coalition files amicus brief in defense of city’s “First in Time” tenant protection law; oral arguments heard June 11th before State Supreme Court

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Displacement Coalition (SDC) joins with City Attorney’s Office; says “City’s law barring landlords from skipping over qualified minority tenants is not a taking” and “will eliminate bias in the residential rental process”

Tenants Union, Futurewise, and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys also file amici briefs in defense of city’s groundbreaking tenant rights bill

Earlier this week, the Washington State Supreme Court accepted the Seattle Displacement Coalition’s amicus brief in defense of the City of Seattle’s groundbreaking “first in time” ordinance barring landlords from skipping over qualified tenants.

According to the Coalition, “the law, if upheld, would go a long way toward eliminating racial discrimination and other forms of rank bias in the rental housing market here in Seattle.  Landlords could no longer ‘conveniently overlook’ a household of color when they are otherwise qualified and first to apply for a vacant unit.”

The Coalition joins the Tenants Union, Futurewise, and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys in filing friend of the court briefs.  Specifically, in its brief, the Displacement Coalition “argues that requiring landlords to take a nondiscriminatory approach to renting residential properties does not constitute a taking under Article I Section 16 of the Washington State Constitution” Instead it will serve the critical purpose the law was designed to achieve – the elimination of bias in the residential rental process.  These other organizations filing briefs will underscore other key issues the City Attorney will be raising in defense of the ordinance.

On June 11th, the Washington State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from the City Attorney’s office in defense of this City’s groundbreaking tenant rights protection law.  Over a year ago, in March of 2018, a King County Superior Court judge ruled against the City of Seattle, finding that the ordinance violated landlords’ property rights, due process guarantees, and protections on commercial free speech. The city appealed directly to the state Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court could have chosen to direct the case back to the appeals court, but instead decided to hear it directly.

The Seattle Displacement Coalition is a 42-year old housing and homeless advocacy group here in Seattle with a long track record of fighting for tenants’ rights and for the preservation and expansion of low income housing in Seattle.  Attorney Rory O’Sullivan assisted the Coalition in filing this brief. Rory currently serves as Co-Director of Student Legal Services at the University of Washington (though his assistance here on behalf of the Displacement Coalition is in a volunteer capacity and not associated with his job) and previously served as the Managing Attorney for the King County Bar Association Housing Justice Project and has taught at Seattle University School of Law.

In explaining further why they’ve gotten involved in this case, the Displacement Coalition says, “sadly racial bias along with many other forms of bias is alive and well in Seattle. HUD and the Tenants Union report dozens of these cases each month in our city and this law will help do away with it!”

For more information you may reach us at this address: mailto:sdc@zipcon.net. Information may also be obtained by calling the City Attorney’s office or other groups filing amicus briefs on behalf of the city’s appeal.

About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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