Watch Out Seattle, Roommates Not on the Lease Have Rights

Housing unaffordability has plagued major metros across the U.S., as many young renters have sought living with roommates and family members to curb rental costs. The City of Seattle identified in their 2018 report, Losing Home: The Human Cost of Eviction in Seattle, that many renters are restricted from taking on roommates under their current lease agreements. Fast forward to now, and the City Council has passed a one-of-a-kind ordinance that gives roommates and their family members renters rights.

Could this be a trend? Or, is it a Seattle-only experiment? Read on to learn more about this unique law and see some of Seattle’s other recently passed ordinances you might just have missed.

Unpacking CB 119606

CB 119606 would give residents the right to add a roommate, family member, or family members of a roommate to the lease so long as it was compliant with the unit’s occupancy limits.

Applied to rental agreements entered into after June 30, 2020, residents who wish to live with a roommate or family member not on the lease must provide property owners and managers notice within 30 days following the new occupancy. Rental owners are prohibited from imposing conditions, including additional resident screening criteria. Landlords and property managers can technically choose to screen the family member or roommate (not excluding anyone), but they cannot prohibit the new occupant from living there unless the property is federally assisted housing or is a partially owner-occupied dwelling.

If the original resident vacates the property before the tenancy expiration, the roommates (if resided in the unit for at least 6 months) become parties to the rental agreement with the same lease terms. Property owners may require (with written notice) any resident that are not a member of the tenant’s immediate family become a party to the rental agreement. If the resident fails to do so within 30 days, the residents must vacate within 45 days.

Although this bill has passed, it passed un-signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan. While Seattle’s Mayor applauded the City Council for pursuing more stable, affordable housing, she noted in her letter that there could be future legal issues with expanding the definition of “family” that the City departments have not yet advised on or budgeted for. Ultimately, time will tell.

What do think of this ordinance? Let us know in the comments!

Seattle’s Other Ordinances

In addition to Seattle’s new roommate rights, the Seattle City Council has passed four other new rental housing bills:

    • Domestic Violence Victims Protections (CB 119658)

Residents experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking could previously have been held liable for property damages caused by the resident’s perpetrator. This ordinance addresses the renter’s liabilities and creates a mitigation fund in which property owners can be reimbursed for the cost of property damages caused by the domestic violence perpetrator. Be mindful of Section 7.24.030, which pertains to all rental agreements entered into after December 31, 2019.

    • City Housing and Building Maintenance Code Amendments (CB 119619)
      It’s time to take a look at your notices! This ordinance makes it unlawful to “issue a notice to terminate tenancy, increase housing costs, or enter a unit unless that notice contains a reference on how to access information on the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.” The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will have reference language for your updated notices.
    • Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance Amendments (CB 119620)

This amendment applies to any rental agreement entered after January 15, 2017 and pertains to receipts for rent other payments (including security deposits, non-refundable move-in fees, utility payments, etc.). Specifically, property owners must:

      1. Provide a receipt for any payments made in cash
      2. Provide (if requested by the resident) a receipt for any payments made in a form other than cash
      3. Provide the option to pay housing costs & other costs and fees via cash, check, or other means that don’t require electronic banking.
    • Just Cause Eviction Ordinance & Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance Amendments (CB 119621)

Rental property owners are now required to register with RRIO before issuing an eviction notice.

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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