At issue are two Seattle ordinances that significantly alter the way residential landlords are allowed to select their tenants.
On June 11, 2019, the Washington State Supreme Court heard back-to-back arguments in a pair of cases entitled, Yim v. City of Seattle (Yim Iand Yim II). Yim I concerns the City’s “first in time” rule, which requires landlords to offer tenancy to the first qualified applicant. If the applicant does not exercise the right, then it passes to the next in time applicant until accepted. The ordinance declares it unlawful for a landlord to deviate from this process, depriving landlords of discretion in the selection process (including the common practice of waiving minimum requirements for otherwise worthy applicants). A King County trial court held that the ordinance violated the takings, due process, and free speech clauses of Washington’s constitution. Seattle appealed the decision directly to Washington’s Supreme Court, asking the Court to overrule decades of regulatory takings and due process case law.
Yim II involves a substantive due process challenge to Seattle’s “fair chance housing ordinance,” which declares it unlawful for a landlord to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history or deny an application based on the applicant’s criminal history. At issue there is Washington’s due process test, which asks, in part, whether a law is unduly oppressive on individual rights. On summary judgment, the City argued that the unduly oppressive test is an anachronism that had been impliedly overruled by Amunrud v. Bd. of Appeals, 158 Wn.2d 208 (2006). The Washington Supreme Court took review of this issue as part of a certified question regarding the proper standard of review in a due process claim involving a deprivation of a property right.
The Federalist Society, https://fedsoc.org