Sawant and supporters when they announced this legislation in July. Photo by Casey Jaywork.

Council to Vote on Limits to Renter Move-In Fees

The bill will likely pass at Council’s 2 p.m. meeting today.

UPDATE: The council unanimously voted in favor of Sawant’s bill to cap move-in fees, with M. Lorena González absent.

ORIGINAL POST: This afternoon Seattle City Council will vote on a bill that would limit the cost of a new tenant’s security deposit and nonrefundable move-in fees to 10 percent of the first full month’s rent (with some small exceptions) and give renters the right to pay those fees in installments of up to six months, depending on the length of the lease. It also includes provisions for enforcement and penalties and defines the kinds of fees landlords can charge new tenants (so they can’t just make up new ones).

We first reported on the bill in July, when supporters including state House candidate Nicole Macri and city councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Mike O’Brien, and Lisa Herbold crammed into a sweaty WA CAN office and announced a plan to pass more renter protections in Seattle. One component of that plan is already law: in August, the council unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Herbold that bans landlord discrimination against prospective renters on the basis of unconventional income sources, like veteran’s benefits or housing vouchers.

The path to today’s vote on move-in fees has been a winding one. Sawant first introduced this bill in September. The council referred it to her Energy and Environment Committee. That committee amended and passed the bill to full council for a final vote in October, but at the request of councilmember Debora Juarez it was re-referred to committee for further changes. In November, Sawant’s committee made those changes and again voted in favor of the bill, sending it back to full council for a vote on December 12—that is, today.

The bill will likely pass. A majority of the council has already voted in favor of it twice in committee. Watch live here:

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