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Mom-and-pop landlords worry new rental rules will force them out of Seattle

Small landlords say they've asked to be excluded from rules they believe are aimed at large rental corporations.

SEATTLE — Some of Seattle's small landlords say a wave of new rental rules passed this year are changing the city's rental market, and not necessarily for the better.

These landlords feel they're being lost in the wave of new rental rules. Three rules were passed this summer, making it more difficult to evict a tenant. On Monday, the city council voted on two additional bills. 

The first bill requires Seattle landlords to give tenants at least 180 days’ notice of any rent increases, triple the current number of days required. The second bill requires landlords to provide financial relocation assistance to tenants who vacate their homes due to rent hikes and qualify for assistance.

The two bills head to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's office for her signature and would take effect 30 days after her approval.  

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"I have two empty rooms because I feel under too much risk," said Seattle small landlord Kate Martin. "Everyone's completely afraid to do anything. You bring someone into your house and this person could become a squatter tomorrow and not pay you a dime and cause you great disruption." 

Martin has a seven-bedroom home. Since 2008, she's been renting those rooms as communal housing. She says she rents the rooms between $800 and $1,000 a month. 

"I only raise $10 - not $100, not $1,000 - only $10 a year, but I've always been able to say, 'You're not working out, so I'm going to need to be able to end this lease,'" Martin said. 

It's landlords like her that are being pushed out of the market with new rental rules, she said. As someone who operates communal housing, often for people who are low-income, she worries the new laws make it too difficult to evict someone and the new bills passed Monday leave her open to possibly paying financial assistance for relocation. 

Seattle's small landlords have asked to be exempt from the new rental rules. They argue mom-and-pop landlords provide more affordable, larger options, like full homes and three-bedroom apartments. When the city council voted on the two new rules Monday, Councilmember Alex Pedersen was the only holdout on the bill regarding 180 days’ notice. 

"I’ve heard from multiple mom-and-pop landlords with concerns. So, I will be voting ‘no’ on this bill mainly because it does not exempt small landlords,” he said during the council meeting.

"To have too many rules changing so quickly, it just really does make your head spin," said landlord Angie Gerald. 

Gerald owns two rental properties. She feels the extended notice puts small landlords at a disadvantage when trying to predict a rental market six months into the future. 

"To manage risk, do I guess higher? Do I have to put the rent up higher than I ever would have because I can't use real numbers? I have to guess everything now?" Gerald said. 

Both Martin and Gerald feel Seattle's rental market is too expensive and they believe they offer a more affordable option. They argue these rules will only hurt those looking for affordable housing. 

"I want to keep doing what I'm doing, but I feel like my city is making it impossible for me. What should I do to change this?" Martin said. 

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