The Seattle City Council has passed an ordinance to cap late rent fees at $10, according to reports, frustrating many small landlords who opposed it.
The city council put in place the $10 cap on late fees for rental payments after the council passed the decision on a 7-2 vote. Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Sara Nelson voted against it. It now goes to the mayor for signature.
“Unfortunately, the Seattle City Council once again has decided to make providing rental housing a more risky and economically unsound endeavor,” said Ryan Makinster, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association.
“While the housing crisis has been created by years of bad policy decisions at the local and state level, elected officials are still blaming and passing law directed at the industry that they should instead be encouraging, housing providers. It is short sighted policies like this that will only exacerbate the housing crisis, not help it,” Makinster said.
The frustration was clear from one small landlord, Alley, who told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM, ““This comes on the back of about two dozen other laws that have changed in really substantial ways, as well as the pandemic eviction moratorium that had a lot of impacts for small landlords. And that context is really never discussed by the city council, which is kind of astounding.”
Alley argued that a $10 fee is not enough to incentivize tenants to pay on time, creating more hassle for local landlords.
The $10 late rent fee cap mirrors existing laws in Burien and Auburn. Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the Seattle Times the bill would make sure renters do not face compounding or exorbitant late fees, which can result in evictions.
“Late fees can suck renters into a debt vortex,” Sawant told the Seattle Times. Leases often include a per day late fee that accumulates until the rent is paid. Some tenants may face hundreds of dollars in late fees in a month.
“Most people really do try to pay their rent on time. Most people do have a decent relationship with their landlords,” Alley said. “There are good landlords, bad landlords, good tenants, bad tenants, we’re all just people. And there were systems in place for regulating that.”