Seattle To Landlords: We'll Pick Tenants for you


WND   Published December 23rd by Bob Unruh

A court fight has erupted over Seattle's demand that landlord's offer a rental unit to the "first person" who submits a valid application, in essence telling property owners that the city will pick their tenants because they might be hindered by "unconscious bias".

Under Seattle's "first-in-time" rule a landlord must offer a rental unit to the "first person who submits an adequate application," explains Ethan Blevins of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which sued over the Big Brother policy.

"This goes far beyond preventing intentional discrimination by banning choice across the board.  No discretion, no chance to sift among potential tenants, no right to make a basic judgment call about who you want on your property for years to come.  If the first person to apply is rude on the phone, too bad -- you have to rent to them.  If you notice a swastika tattooed on an applicant's shoulder when he visits the unit, too bad -- if he apples first he gets the house.  If someone applied second, though, makes a good impression and needs a break, too bad -- you have to reject them, "Blevins said.

The new demand by Seattle that landlords be given no choice about their renters was imposed because, the complaint alleges, city officials want "to protect against the possibility that a rental decision may be motivated by an unconscious bias."

Pacific Legal argues that in the past the state's Supreme Court already has ruled that "an owners right to sell property interest to whom he or she chooses is a fundamental attribute of property ownership, which cannot be taken without due process and payment of of just compensation."  

"The first-in-time rule also abridges other constitutional rights regarding property and free speech.  The uncompensated taking, for instance, is not for a public use as the state constitution requires.  Rather, the city grants a right of first refusal -- a valuable property interest -- to the first qualified applicant," the case argues.

City officials have claimed it is an "unfair practice" to rent to someone other than the first qualified applicant.  Seattle City Council reasoned that landlords -- when left to their own judgment -- might subconsciously discriminate against protected classes and the city's new ban for landlords to use their own discretion is a "transformational" means of teaching them to "unlearn the implicit associations that might effect their judgment."

Blevis said if government "can strip you of choice just because unconsciousness bias might influence that choice, its power would have no bounds."  He explained, " the city is glad to gut the many innocent and virtuous reasons for selecting a tenant in order to strike at unconscious biases that may or may not be subtly influencing any given landlord.  Your subconscious might manipulate you, so to save you and others from your own flaws, the city just makes important decisions for you."

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