Seattle First-in-Time Law Overturned by Superior Court

Seattle’s law requiring landlords to accept rental applicants on a “first-come, first-served” basis was ruled unconstitutional. The law, often called the First-in-Time or “FIT” rule, required landlords to establish rental criteria and offer tenancy to the first applicant which met those criteria guidelines.

A complaint was filed in March 2017 requesting a permanent injunction forbidding the city from enforcing the rule. King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Parisien issued a written ruling on March 28, 2018 in favor of the plaintiffs in their suit against the city. Judge Parisien agreed the law violated free speech and property rights clauses of the Washington State Constitution. The City of Seattle is expected to appeal the decision.

As Judge Parisien noted in her ruling, aspects of the FIT rule attempted “to codify industry-recommended best practice by requiring landlords to establish screening criteria and offer tenancy to the first applicant meeting them.” Many landlords have already adopted these industry recommendations to simplify their process and avoid discrimination liability.  Discrimination risk is reduced when the screening process is limited to a first-come, first-serve basis with rental criteria clearly defined.

For more information on first-come, first-serve best screening practices, visit Tenant Screening 101 – First Come, First Serve.