NEWS

The New Roommate Bill




Renting in Seattle Landlord Update


Greetings Housing Providers,


In this issue, we provide a summary of the new roommate bill that goes into effect today, July 1. The bill seeks to help make Seattle affordable for low- and middle-income folks.  According to theCost of Living Index, Seattle is the fifth most expensive place to live in America as of the first quarter of 2019.  The City is committed to identifying ways to preserve our communities and grow in diversity and equity. 


We have a refresher on Source of Income Discrimination (SOID), anticipating that rental applicants impacted by COVID-19 will rely on a variety of income sources, including unemployment or DSHS assistance as examples. 


A flyer explaining the temporary protections during the COVID-19 recovery period is available on Renting in Seattle. Translated versions will be available next week.  Share freely with your renters.


Finally, our May webinars on COVID-19 regulations and our core landlord workshop curriculum are now available on our landlord resourcespage.


For help understanding this content or rental regulations please call the Renting in Seattle helpline at (206) 684-5700.


CB 119606 The Roommate Bill

Referred to commonly as the roommate bill, this legislation seeks to increase affordability in Seattle and prevent evictions.  


Summary: 

  • Exemptions

  • Owner occupied rentals

  • Federally assisted housing 


  • The regulation applies to existing month by month agreements starting on July 1, 2020 and any new rental agreements that start on or after July 1, 2020. 


  • Tenants can add to their household

  • Immediate family (broadly defined) 

  • One additional non-family roommate 

  • Immediate family of the additional non-family roommate     

  • Not to exceed occupancy standard (see below)


  • Immediate Family is broadly defined to include: Spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, former domestic partners, adult persons related by marriage, siblings, persons 16 years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, and persons who have a parent-child relationship, including parents, stepparents, grandparents, adoptive parents, guardians, foster parents, or custodians of minors. For purposes of this definition, "dating relationship" means a social relationship of a romantic nature. Factors a court may consider in determining the existence of a dating relationship include: (a) the length of time the relationship has existed; (b) the nature of the relationship; and (c) the frequency of interaction between the parties.


  • Tenants are required to inform you in writing within 30 days of adding someone to their household.  

  •     Screening

  • A non-family roommate (a) can be screened (b) can be denied occupancy based on screening

  • Immediate family (a) can be screened, (b) cannot be denied occupancy.

  • Screening charges are allowed in compliance with the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance (SMC 7.24) and the state landlord tenant act. Be consistent to avoid any fair housing violations.  

  • Screening criteria must be the same for all added household members as for the original tenant.

  • The Rental Agreement

  • A non-family roommate can be required to join the rental agreement. 

  • You can require a non-family roommate to join the rental agreement with 30-days written notice.   If the roommate does not join the rental agreement in 30 days, they must vacate within 15 days. (45 days total)

  • Immediate family cannot be required to join a rental agreement nor be denied occupancy.   They can be listed as authorized occupants.  

  • A landlord can deny occupancy to a non-family roommate who does not meet screening criteria.

  • Except for a screening fee, no other move-in charges can be applied to the added household member.   All original terms of the rental agreement remain the same. 

  • You cannot increase housing costs, for added household members unless provided for in the rental agreement and proper notice compliant with the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance.


  • Occupancy standards

  • The following are City of Seattle occupancy standards/regulations.  The roommate bill acknowledges occupancy standards to include federal, state or other applicable occupancy laws that may apply.

  • Floor area and occupancy standards are contained in the Housing and Building Maintenance Code (HBMC) (SMC 22.206.020).

  • Single family zoning permits up to 8 unrelated people or any number of related people. Up to 12 unrelated people may reside in a lot with 2 accessory dwelling units(ADU) (SMC 23.44.041). 


Source of Income Discrimination (SOID) Refresher

Remember that in Seattle, you cannot discriminate against a rental applicant who relies on income other than employment.

  • Seattle’s Source of Income protections extend to renters who use alternative sources of income and subsidies to pay for housing costs.

  • Landlords are required to cooperate with subsidy programs and accept written pledges of payment from subsidy programs to settle tenant bills. 

  • Additionally, when calculating income-to-rent ratios, landlords must subtract subsidies and count all sources of the tenant’s income.

  • Finally, preferred employer programs are prohibited.

  • For more info on Source of Income, visit this website, call (206) 684-4500, or email discriminationquestions@seattle.gov.