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Small landlords share concerns about recent housing laws with Seattle City Council committee

The small landlords say the city has passed laws that have created a difficult environment for them, and it has led to the loss of some rental properties.

SEATTLE — A business roundtable brought frustrated small landlords in front of the Seattle City Council during Wednesday’s Economic Development, Technology and City Light Committee

During the meeting, a panel of landlords unleashed a long list of concerns about laws passed in recent years. They told council members that it has created a difficult environment for them to continue to be housing providers. According to the panel, there's been a 14% net loss of rental properties in Seattle in the last four years.

“I don't think anyone would fault me for saying, 'Hey, I don't want to be a landlord in Seattle anymore',” said Ayda, a former landlord who asked that she only be identified by her first name.

She says her Lake City home was trashed by a tenant.

“The tenant that I chose seemed very normal and responsible, but he had poor credit. I took a chance on him,” said Ayda.

He moved in just before the pandemic.

“I had no idea that this sort of legislative tsunami was coming my way,” Ayda said.

She says the tenant stopped paying rent, but laws and circumstances prevented his eviction until August of last year.

“Eviction day was physically unsafe. My tenant had five guns in the house, and they had to send out not one but three sheriffs,” said Ayda.

She says the entire situation took an emotional and financial toll.

“Absorbing a $120,000 loss was truly untenable. The city had no solutions for me,” she said.

Joining with other landlords, the panel spoke directly to council members.

“We have had at least 24 laws passed in the last six years,” said MariLyn Yim, a landlord in the Ballard neighborhood.

One of the topics addressed was late fees.

“Conventional wisdom, I think is the term, is that late fees incentivize timely payment, but I wonder whether or not there are actual studies that demonstrate that,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

During the meeting, there was a call for more studies and more conversation.

"They have to bring small landlords to the table,” said Ayda.

Small landlords told council members that they want to be viewed as valued stakeholders when new legislation is being considered at city hall.

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