About Our Stories of Housing Lost
One of the first things we're tackling is to share the stories of small-scale housing providers that have left the market in recent years. People leaving the market, and the negative impact their absence has on renters, needs to become more visible if we're to improve the trajectory of our city's rental housing.
We're just starting to connect with former Seattle landlords who have stopped providing housing. If that's you, we'd love to hear from you! We've put together a survey to gather information from you so we can help tell your story. If you have 15 minutes to share about your experience as a housing provider, please fill out the survey. And please pass it along if you know others who have stopped offering housing in Seattle as well!
Stories of Housing Lost
Story #8 - "[Attending a class on rental housing] was an eye-opener as it appeared that most laws seemed unfair to landlords re number of people, pets, eviction notice and procedures, etc."
I purchased a home for $81,000 located at 13516 North Park Ave N, Seattle 98133 in 1981 as a single woman. Originally I lived in the basement mother-in-law and rented out the main floor to a family. Later I had lots of different roommates and/or I rented out the mother-in-law until I moved to Los Angeles to marry my current husband in about 1985. I rented the house to a variety of tenants until recently. More or less, for the past 20 years, I rented the house to one family with young twin daughters for about 7 years. I never raised the rent. They moved to a rental home with better quality schools when their girls were about 8 years old. Then I rented it to a family with one child. They stayed for 5 years and I never raised the rent. I ended up asking them to leave because I had now retired and the house needed a lot of work after being a rental for so many years. I brought up a blowup bed and a sleeping bag and I worked on improving the house. I updated the two baths on the main floor and the lower level mother-in-law plus other necessary improvements. Then I rented the house to two women for one year. Due to a job move, they decided not to rent for another year. At this point, I decided to make further improvements such as upgrading the electric panel, etc.
Eventually, I rented the house again to a family with an older son, who was to live in the mother-in-law. It's a long story but I ended up voiding their lease when the woman stated that she did not want to live in the house because of the necessity of taking stairs from the street to the house. I made the initial error of renting it to them without her being present. Also, they requested unreasonable modifications to the house. So, they reported me to the Seattle Civil Rights division and it took almost one year for the case to be resolved. In the end, I was not found guilty and did not face any monetary fine. My punishment was to attend the class re rental housing which was an eye-opener as it appeared that most laws seemed unfair to landlords re number of people, pets, eviction notice and procedures, etc.
After that experience, I decided to just do short term rentals, either on Craigslist or Airbnb. For the most part, it worked out okay but I became tired of worrying about the house. When real estate market became overheated, I decided to sell it. I listed it on Savvylane.com for $295 as a flat fee listing. I used the Airbnb furnishings and photos for the listing. I didn't hire a photographer or stager. I listed it for $825,000 for a week, then $799,000 for a week. Eventually I got 3 offers and the price rose to $830,000. Escrow is schedule for May 27.
Story #7 - "Despite the claims of commitment to 'community', Seattle City Council's Landlord hostility has hamstrung the smaller land holding entrepreneur and ensured that the only people who can afford to gamble in this market are absentee corporate landlords."
After a parent passed, I bought the Duplex next door. I joined several support groups (RHA), used w/ bonded & licensed contractors and offered up 2 units, 3 bedrooms for rent. After a red-ink learning curve choosing tenants, I can tell you that trust is no substitute for tenant screening. After marrying, we moved and added my first home to the market. Rent and vacancy stayed low, we renewed leases ~4-8 years absent tenants who got pregnant and would need more space, or who bought their own starter homes.
Fast forward two decades, and our City Council chose to become Landlord Hostile. A rash of policies like "first come, first served" indicated we'd lose control over who we rented to, and if we could remain financially in the black. After the first red-ink learning curve and a radically altered "landlord landscape" on the horizon, we sold. Our unique neighborhood fenced yard, 2 lots, 3 units, 4 parking spots, 5 bedrooms will become 23 units, zero parking, ~zero-lot line.
The City insured its' tax base by reducing the tax value of improvements (buildings) and increasing land value. Seattle has seen wild value-growth ever since, which includes higher cost of market entry. We cashed in, but the average wage earner is unable to afford to thrive or survive in this housing market. Despite the claims of commitment to 'community', Seattle City Council's Landlord hostility has hamstrung the smaller land holding entrepreneur and ensured that the only 'people who can afford to gamble in this market are absentee corporate landlords. Seattle is now free to be exploited (Libertas de EXploitas).
Glad I got out before I drowned, but I wish I didn't feel the urgent need to. I also wish Seattle hadn't mortgage its unique neighborhoods' character for a higher tax base that our City Council still can't seem to manage properly.
Story #6 - "I just can't take these risks of a dangerous person moving into my home, knowing the City of Seattle has essentially abandoned housing providers and refuses to offer us the protection we need."
I'm a single mom who has been renting rooms in my house for the past ten years. I've had many wonderful renters, many who have thanked me for providing them with affordable housing in Seattle's crazy expensive rental market. In fact, I prided myself on having "the best cheap rooms in town".
Although I have an extensive interview and background check process, it has happened that some folks with severe behavior problems slipped through the net. In fact, during the pandemic, I had a resident with severe mental illness, who had been exhibiting what one social worker I spoke to aptly characterized as "bizarre behavior that could be interpreted as threatening". An example is, this person once emerged from the house carrying an unsheathed knife and walked down the street with it. On another occasion, they sent me a meme reading "When my landlord asks why I spent my stimulus check on a gun instead of paying the rent ... that's a surprise for later". This resident received frequent visits from police and social workers and - I learned - was under an Extreme Risk Protection Order. I had begun to feel extremely unsafe and wanted this person out of my house, but was very worried that with all the eviction bans in place, I would not be able to accomplish that. Per Governor Inslee's order, I served the resident with a notice to vacate based on Just Cause, with an attached affidavit stating the eviction was for a health and safety reason. Had this gone to court, I don't know whether this eviction would have met the bar for a health and safety eviction, since the guidelines for what qualified were not explained and there was no precedent for such a law. Furthermore, if this individual had had access to a free eviction lawyer, they likely could have drawn the process out for several months. Fortunately, they simply negotiated with me for another 30 days - which I gladly agreed to since I didn't want them to end up homeless - and they found another place to live. I thanked my lucky stars this person didn't try to fight me in court. Who knows how long this terrible situation would have dragged on? Now, though - per the most recent anti-housing-provider legislation passed in Seattle - anyone facing an eviction in Seattle can get a free lawyer. I'm a single mom on Medicaid, who qualifies as "indigent" by most measures. I attended the City Hall meeting where this decision was made. "Where's MY free lawyer?" I asked. "I can't afford a lawyer. How can the City justify taking sides in a civil case?" I didn't get an answer, and the legislation was passed unanimously.
I no longer feel I can take the risk of ending up with a potentially dangerous resident in my home that I may not be able to evict. That room - which was the most affordable room in my house and previously housed many students, a DACA dreamer, a young person starting up his own business, and many others who expressed gratitude for such an affordable living space that allowed them to save money and pursue their dreams - has been converted to a pantry. Another roommate also moved out recently, and that room is now an extra guest room.
When I bought this house ten years ago, I had a dream of building a positive shared community here. I wanted people living in my house because I like having people around, I believe in offering affordable housing, and obviously, I wanted to supplement my own meager income from teaching music so I could spend more time with my daughter while she was growing up. (I get no child support from her father.)
For the most part, I've done what I set out to do. The remaining residents still living here are terrific people and are welcome to stay as long as they want, or until I sell the house (which I might). Whenever they choose to leave, their rooms will be converted to either AirBnB or some other business use. I might even start a preschool. But I will not offer any more rentals to the general public. I just can't take these risk of a dangerous person moving into my home, knowing the City of Seattle has essentially abandoned housing providers and refuses to offer us the protection we need.
Story #5 - "Seattle's new laws are terrifyingly restrictive to independent landlords, and it is just not worth the risk to our personal finances."
We helped care for elderly neighbors for years and when they transitioned into senior housing we bought their house from them because they didn't want it to be torn down. We fixed up the main floor and are renting it at cost to three good natured young people who work in the service industry. The plan was to renovate the basement into another apartment which would help cover the cost of the improvements, but our finances are not strong enough to pull us through a lease with a bad tenant. Seattle's new laws are terrifyingly restrictive to independent landlords, and it is just not worth the risk to our personal finances. We can use that basement for other purposes and will sell the house when the current renters decide to move out.
Story #4 - Missing: Another long-time rental. Last seen in Bitter Lake.
Rather than including details about his/her story, this submission just gave us the facts. Here's what we know...
A single family rental in the Bitter Lake neighborhood was sold. The landlord had more than 10 years experience and cites as reasons for selling: 1) Current / recent landlord-tenant laws. 2) Risks of future landlord-tenant legislation. 3) Political and/or social animosity toward landlords. It appears the new owners are no longer offering it as a rental.
Story #3 - "The Seattle City Council and now King County Council and their constant vilification of all housing providers is what has chased me out of Seattle/King County with the myriad of complicated and overreaching legislative action."
I've been a housing provider as far back as 1996 when I bought a house and rented out one of the rooms to help me cover the mortgage. Eventually, I bought another small home, rented out the other house. I also brought in a roommate a few times over the years when I was in the second home. I am not some rich person with money to burn. This has been a long hard working process. I had never considered leaving Seattle's housing market until recently (last ~5 years). Fast forward to current time: I have sold out of Seattle partly and plan to entirely. I now have two rental houses (obtained over the past 4 years) in Mountlake Terrace (in Snohomish County) and happier for it. When my rental house in Ballard becomes vacant, I plan on selling and getting out of Seattle housing provider market all together. Done. I always have long term tenants and allow pets, I guess because people stay for years in my rentals, I'm doing something right. The Seattle City Council and now King County Council and their constant vilification of all housing providers is what has chased me out of Seattle/King County with the myriad of complicated and overreaching legislative action. With every bill and law passed, the liability goes up for the small-time housing provider that is simply trying to make a best effort at doing the right thing but can get caught up in all the crazy laws. Now tenants in Seattle facing eviction get a free lawyer no matter if they can afford it or not. As for the small time housing provider, nope! It would be so easy to add a small-time housing provider (less than 4 units) exemption to these bills and legislative actions, but that falls on deaf ears every time. I pay a membership fee annually to RHAWA so I can get access to rental forms and information on this ever changing landscape. You'd think Seattle would provide all the forms etc. But they do not. So I pay for it out of pocket. Still that does not protect me, we are still expected to know all the complex laws now in place. Nuts. I'm out of Settle/King County. Good luck.
Story #2 - "It's unfortunate for potential renters that a clean, well maintained space in a beautiful house is no longer available for anyone to rent."
My wife and I rented a basement ADU in our home at Green Lake. We decided to rent the basement to help pay the mortgage, taxes and maintenance on the house as well as to help supplement our income in retirement. For 11 years we had good tenants and we were were good to our tenants. We generally charged less than the market rate for our unit and treated our tenants like neighbors and family. Our overall experience as landlords was positive and we encouraged Seattle friends and neighbors to rent spaces in their homes to make room for others in our community. A few years ago things changed for us as landlords in Seattle as the city literally began taking more and more control of who lives in our home. When the pandemic came and we could no longer be assured of being paid by our tenant, whether they were impacted by covid or not, we decided to eliminate all of the personal and financial risks and simply sell the house and move to a place where we won't need the rental income. In February we sold the house to a couple who does not intend to rent the ADU. It's unfortunate for potential renters that a clean, well maintained space in a beautiful house is no longer available for anyone to rent.
Story #1 - "I chafed at what seemed like an unending stream of new rules and regulations that I was supposed to track and comply with. The threats of fines if didn't comply correctly. I have a full time job. I raise a family."
In 2015 I bought a home that had a ADU in the back yard. The ADU was in VERY bad shape and I spent over a year of evenings and weekends improving it.....using all my own labor I painted, tiled, installed new floors. Re-did the bathrooms and the kitchens. It came out super cute and lovely. To access the ADU, you have to walk by the main house. I have children at home.
Given that I had worked so on the property and that my children were in immediate proximity to it, I chafed at the rule that said I had to rent the home to the first person who qualified. I chafed at what seemed like an un-ending stream of new rules and regulations that I was suppossed to track and comply with. The threats of fines if I didn't comply correctly. I have a full time job, I raise a family.
In the end, I decided the small rental income wasn't worth the distraction and potential aggravation. The ADU is not on the rental market.
Rental House #2.
My wife owns a cute little two bedroom rental home with great views of Lake Washington. The tenant is a low income, woman of color. She was often late on her rent. My wife always worked with her. The tenant gave notice that she will be leaving the home so that she can move to California. With the recent talk of providing attorneys to tenants, the never-ending moratorium on evictions and the constant stream of adversarial lanquage coming from our city council, we have decided to sell the home. The new buyer will almost certainly be a high income tech worker. The hassles of being a landlord in Seattle are not worth it.