The Fair Tenant Screening Act – which Governor Gregoire signed last March – went into effect this morning. This marks the start of significant new protections for all of Washington’s renters, and is a major breakthrough in the barriers tenants face accessing affordable housing.
From now on, every tenant will know the criteria a landlord is using to screen prospective tenants. If that landlord decides not to rent to the tenant, or takes an “adverse action,” such as charging a higher deposit, then the tenant will have the right to know why. There is still a lot of work to be done on this front. Important protections for victims of domestic violence were taken out at the last minute. We want to fix the high costs to tenants who repeatedly have to pay for screening reports – sometimes the same report – with each application for housing. There are also some issues with the content of the reports.
The law created a stakeholder group to meet during the interim, which we are part of, and the group will present their findings to the Legislature next winter. Even though we have more work to do, this still represents an incredible victory for tenants in Washington State, shows, once again, the power of advocacy to make Washington a better place for everyone who lives here.