Seattle Law Changes Use of Criminal Histories in Tenant Screening & May Change Tenant Screening Across the Country; Opines

Tenant Screening USA

New laws, such as the one in Seattle governing the use of criminal history records as party of tenant applicant vetting, highlight an immediate need for landlords to work with a professional tenant screening agency.

A new law in the city of Seattle eliminates nearly all use of criminal records history as part of tenant background screening and could affect tenant screening laws across the country, comments Adam Almeida, President and CEO of “Efforts by city government in Seattle regarding fair tenant policies have often led the country and point out the immediate and urgent need for all landlords and property managers work with third-party tenant screening agencies in order to maintain full compliance with local, state, and federal law.”

City leaders in Seattle have voted on new legislation that will severely limit the use of criminal history as part of a tenant background check.

From (Aug 14, 17):

Under the new Fair Chance Housing Law, landlords are prohibited from considering expunged, vacated or sealed convictions, juvenile convictions and arrests. Adult sex offense convictions and owner-occupied single family homes are exempt. (1)

The new law takes effect in six months.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of opines: “This new law will greatly impact current practices conducted by landlords and property managers. Reliance on criminal history records as a vetting tool will have to be changed and points to the immediate need to work with a well-qualified third-party tenant screening agency.”

There has been some pushback on the new law from landlords with multi-unit properties, but there are some remaining protections.

From (Aug. 14, 17):

Some landlords say being allowed to make decisions based on the criminal histories of prospective tenants helps them better safeguard their property and existing tenants.

Landlords renting part of their own homes and sharing a kitchen or bathroom with a tenant will be exempt, as will primary leaseholders given the authority by landlords to choose roommates.

People renting mother-in-law apartments or backyard cottages on properties where they live also will be exempt, but micro-housing units will be covered by the ordinance. (2)

Almeida opines: “Housing is critical for formerly incarcerated individuals but there remains a fine line on safeguarding property and current tenants.”

From (Aug. 14,17):

But that may just force landlords to do more of a deep dive into financial and other civil records, Sean Martin with the Rental Housing Association of Washington says.

“There are other means and tools out there,” he said.

There is enough criteria outside of criminal records that landlords can use to deny someone housing, he says. Taking a look at previous evictions, for example, could provide evidence that the person applying is a financial risk. (3)

Almeida opines: “New laws, such as the one in Seattle governing the use of criminal history records as party of tenant applicant vetting, highlight an immediate and urgent need for property managers and landlords to work with a third-party tenant screening agency in order to stay fully compliant with law. provides full service tenant screening for landlords and property managers of any size and can greatly assist in remaining fully compliant with all existing law governing tenant screening. With a highly trained and experienced staff, can help landlords and property managers with all tenant screening needs.


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