A new law went into effect on September 30, 2018, that prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based upon the source of their income. Under the law, all legal sources of income must be accepted. Landlords may not refuse to rent to certain tenants simply because their income is in the form of government assistance or other benefits.
As a landlord, there are a wide variety of laws that restrict what you may and may not do in regards to your tenants. With the help of an experienced Washington landlord/tenant attorney, you will feel confident that you are following every applicable law.
Source of Income Legislation
Many landlords in the past have made a choice about whether to accept tenants that have alternative sources of income rather than typical employment income. This practice is no longer permitted under Washington law.
Landlords are not allowed to discriminate against tenants simply because their income is derived from an alternative source. Alternative sources of income may include
- benefits or subsidy programs (including housing assistance),
- public assistance,
- emergency rental assistance,
- veterans benefits,
- social security,
- supplemental security income or other retirement programs, and
- other programs administered by a federal, state, local, or nonprofit entity.
Source of income does not mean any amount earned in an illegal manner.
A landlord may not do the following based on a prospective or current tenant's source of income.
- Refuse to lease or rent (except under specific legal exceptions).
- Expel a tenant.
- Make any distinction, discrimination, or restriction.
- Attempt to discourage rental.
- Assist, induce, incite, or coerce another person to commit a violation of this law.
- Coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person's rights under the law.
- Represent that a unit is not available when it is.
- In any other way make a unit unavailable to a prospective or current tenant based on that tenant's income.
Under the new law, landlords may not publish, circulate, issue, or display any communication, notice, advertisement, or sign of any kind that demonstrates any kind of preference, limitation, or requirement based on any source of income.
Calculation of Sufficient Income
Under the law, any amount of "income" that comes from some form of rent voucher or subsidy must be subtracted from the total minimum income requirements a landlord sets. A landlord may only consider whatever income the tenant him or herself would be directly responsible for.
Example: Sam applies for an apartment that costs $900 per month. Sam's veteran benefits will cover $700 of the rent. The landlord requires a tenant to have two times the rental amount in income to qualify. Before the law, Sam's income would need to be $1,800 per month. Under this new law, the landlord must subtract the subsidy amount ($700) from the monthly rent ($900) in determining the available income. Here, Sam's portion of the rent would be $200. Therefore, Sam's monthly income only needs to be $400 per month.
If a Landlord Violates the Law
If a landlord violates this law, he or she may be held liable for four times the amount of monthly rent, plus court costs and attorney fees.
Do not let yourself be in a position where you have to pay these kinds of fees. With help, you can be sure you follow the law.
Consult a Washington Landlord/Tenant Attorney
Navigating all of the complex laws which apply to Washington landlord/tenant relationships can be very difficult without the help of experienced legal counsel.
Experienced landlord/tenant attorney Quinn Posner represents landlords in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a free consultation.