Issue: Bellevue, Seattle, and unincorporated King County have local ordinances preventing landlords from refusing to rent to prospective tenants just because they are using a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. But in other parts of the state, tenants are being turned away by landlords simply because they use a government subsidy to make ends meet. That is wrong, unfair, and counterproductive. We should be making these critical tools easier to use, not harder.
Background: Discrimination against renters based on verifiable and legitimate sources of income is a common practice. Tenants who attempt to legally utilize a subsidy frequently hear comments like, “I don’t rent to people like you.” Countless tenants experience discrimination on a daily basis. Advertising forums for rentals, such as craigslist.org, show many landlords who boldly state, “No Section 8 accepted.” Some landlords refuse an application for tenancy regardless of the tenant’s rental and credit history, simply because of their use of government aid to subsidize the rent.
Washington state has already recognized the need to protect residents from housing discrimination based on their race, color, disability, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, and sexual orientation. Many people in these categories, such as single parents, the disabled, and the elderly, rely on a government subsidy to keep a roof over their heads. But the lack of public protection against discrimination based on their source of income leaves people in a perpetual state of housing instability.
Tenants who receive a government subsidy should not be automatically assumed to be unacceptable or undesirable tenants. In fact, tenants with housing choice vouchers are some of the most highly scrutinized tenants in the nation. Such tenants have been screened for criminal background, rental history, household verification, and income verification. The vast majority of tenants with subsidies are good tenants and should not be discriminated against based on unfair stereotypes. Stereotypes about recipients of either temporary or long-term subsidies are not legitimate grounds to determine an applicant’s suitability as a renter.
This legislation will not require landlords to rent to any and all households using housing choice vouchers or other subsidies. Landlords will still have the right to screen all applicants to assure that they are renting to good tenants. Landlord references, credit checks, income verification, and other methods are all perfectly legitimate tools for a landlord to use in screening and denying potential tenants, regardless of their source of income. Source of Income protection will simply require landlords to fairly consider a Section 8 tenant’s application (or the application of a tenant who will use some other verifiable and legitimate form of government subsidy, such as child support or SSI) and to hold these tenants to the same level of scrutiny that they hold all other applicants.
Action: Call your state elected officials at 1-800-562-6000 to ask them to “Please vote yes on HB 1956 to outlaw Source of Income discrimination.” You can also take action online at www.socialjusticenow.org.
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/02/28/feb-28-2007-entire-issue