Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Q&A: Can relying on public assistance disqualify you for a rental?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Some people who rely on housing vouchers, Social Security, or other forms of benefits or assistance struggled to find landlords who would rent to them. This is called "source of income discrimination." This spring the state legislature and the Metropolitan King County Council passed laws to expand housing opportunities by prohibiting landlords or home sellers from denying people housing based on how they would pay for the unit.

Prospective tenants with verifiable alternative source of income - such as Social Security, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, state Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) funds, or rapid rehousing assistance - cannot be discriminated against in the rental process.

The state bill in question is HB 2578. Some details are below. You can read a full summary is here.

The King County ordinance incorporates language in the county code from the new state law on this issue and gives the county additional regulatory teeth to make sure people are following the rules.

The term "source of income" does not refer to income derived in an illegal manner.

"A new section is added to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, prohibiting a landlord from taking any of the following actions based on the source of income of an otherwise eligible prospective or current tenant (tenant):Ÿ
  • Refusing to rent or lease the property, unless the tenant's source of income is conditioned on the real property passing inspection, the written estimate of the cost of improvements is more then $1500, and the landlord has not received moneys from the Landlord Mitigation Program Account (Account) to make the improvements;
  • Expelling a tenant;making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in the price, terms, conditions, or privileges relating to the rental, lease, or occupancy;
  • Attempting to discourage the rental or lease;
  • Assisting, inducing, inciting, or coercing another person to commit an act or engage in a practice that violates this new section;
  • Coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted under this new section;
  • Representing to a person that a dwelling unit is not available for inspection or rental when the dwelling unit is available for inspection or rental"
    - Excerpt from Final Bill Report for HB 2578