Multi-Generational Families and Seattle's New Tenant Protection Laws: What Landlords Need to Know

Seattle's latest tenant laws, while creating a great deal of frustration for many landlords, are designed to help provide a layer of protection for tenants across the city who are looking for housing. These tenant laws focus on a "first in time" protection for qualified tenants: that is, landlords must provide a list of their expectations and requirements for tenants, then offer the property to the first qualified applicant to submit their information for the property.

  • Friday, March 6, 2020

  Matt Angerer

  Legal   Washington   Tenant Protection Law   

Seattle's latest tenant laws, while creating a great deal of frustration for many landlords, are designed to help provide a layer of protection for tenants across the city who are looking for housing. These tenant laws focus on a "first in time" protection for qualified tenants: that is, landlords must provide a list of their expectations and requirements for tenants, then offer the property to the first qualified applicant to submit their information for the property. This law aims to provide protection for minorities as well as multi-generational families who are looking for places to live in the Seattle area. 

What are Multi-Generational Families?

Multi-generational families are families that have more than two generations living in the same household. Typically, a multi-generational family consists of one or more grandparents alongside parents and children in the household. A record 20% of the United States population currently lives in a multi-generational household, due in part to rising cost of living as well as baby boomers who are discovering that they aren't as prepared for retirement as they initially thought. Other families may consist of parents who may continue to need to support adult children. In some cases, you may also have family members who would like to live close to one another, but choose to rent apartments close to one another instead of sharing a space directly. Multi-generational arrangements offer a number of benefits for many families, including:

Shared bills.  When families share a space directly, they can often decrease everyone's bills. It's often less expensive to purchase one larger property than it is to purchase two or more smaller properties for everyone in the family. Multi-generational housing can also help save on other bills, including energy expenses, internet, cable, and phone expenses. 

Easy, inexpensive childcare. Many members of multi-generational families find that childcare is much more convenient when everyone lives together: an elderly family member can often easily provide care for young children. Having multiple family members close together can also make it easier for families to juggle child care on days out of school or in the event of unexpected illness.

Ease of checking on elderly family members. As family members get older, they may require more care or attention. Elder care becomes easier when families share living space. It's also easier to check in on an elderly family member when you either live together or live in close proximity to one another. This is particularly desirable for older seniors, who may need more assistance or monitoring as they get older. 

How Do Seattle's New Laws Impact Landlords Renting to Multi-Generational Families?

As a landlord, you must offer your property to the first renter to meet your criteria--including multi-generational families. You may not, however, give precedence to these individuals unless they're able to submit their rental applications ahead of the crowd. As a landlord, you:

Cannot discriminate, or appear to discriminate, against multi-generational families. You cannot reject an application from a multi-generational family that otherwise meets your criteria if that family is the first to submit their rental application. 

Cannot give precedence to multi-generational families. Renting to multi-generational families may have some benefits. In fact, you may have properties that are specifically designed with multi-generational families in mind: larger properties with plenty of bedrooms, for example, or properties that may have a separate living space for an adult child or a grandparent who wants their own space in the larger family home. Under Seattle's new laws, however, you cannot give precedence to multi-generational families, either.

How Can You Accommodate Multi-Generational Families?

As a landlord, you may need to be prepared to accommodate multi-generational families, especially as that population continues to increase throughout the Seattle area. Not only do you want to offer physical accommodations for those families, you may want to offer specific accommodations that make life easier for those multi-generational families.

Set aside space where adult children or grandparents can have their own room. In an apartment complex, this might, for example, mean larger apartments, including those that may have more than one living space. You may want to consider offering larger apartments to help accommodate multi-generational households.  

Allow for tenant agreements that include multi-generational families. Your tenants may split the rent among different members of the household, or they may choose for one or two members to pay rent directly. Just as you might have a specific lease for apartments with roommates, you may want to have a lease specifically designed to accommodate multi-generational families.

Prepare your apartments to offer accommodations and amenities that appeal to multi-generational families. Previously, an apartment complex that marketed itself to young families might not have needed to focus on providing amenities that would appeal to seniors. Now, however, apartment complexes need to face the possibility that they may be marketing to families with multiple generations living under the same roof and make appropriate accommodations, including:

  • Common areas designed to appeal to people of all ages
  • Allowance for disabilities, including wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, and a working elevator
  • Easy access to emergency exits
  • Specific smart technology designed to appeal to older renters

Prepare for the possibility of short-term rentals and long-term rentals alike. In some cases, multi-generational renters may choose to rent short-term, rather than long-term. They might, for example, need to create a multi-generational arrangement short-term because they need to provide space for an aging or ill family member. A multi-generational arrangement may also dissolve when an adult child is ready to move out on their own, gets married, or has children of their own. On the other hand, some multi-generational arrangements go on for years, with family members choosing to live close to one another or in the same, shared space for as long as they can.

Do you have a property that you want to put on the market? Do you want to streamline your tenant screening processes and make it easier to find tenants who fit your needs as a landlord? Contact us today to learn more about how we can make it easier to take care of your tenants' needs. 

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About the author

Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America. 

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