Council removes sunset date on emergency ordinance

The Income Source Discrimination law, initially set to expire on Aug. 1, protects landlords from discriminating against Section 8 renters.

Renton City Council voted to eliminate the sunset date of Income Source Discrimination law on Monday, June 26.

The emergency ordinance, which was initially set to expire on Aug. 1, was passed last November after apartment complexes across the city sent letters to Section 8 renters asking them to vacate their apartment units.

The ordinance prohibits property owners and managers from discriminating against tenants or potential tenants based on their participation in the Section 8 housing program.

It also establishes penalties for violating the ordinance, including fines of $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second with a two-year period and making a third violation in the same period a gross misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence of 364 days and up to a $5,000 fine and restitution.

The ordinance was discussed at June 19 Committee of the Whole meeting. Council members agreed to take away the sunset clause, allowing for the ordinance to be in affect past Aug. 1. This also gives the council extra time to discuss if and how to broaden the ordinance language to protect additional forms of income discrimination.

Currently the ordinance only protects Section 8 renters, but not other forms of income discrimination like unemployment insurance, social security or other forms of nonprofit assistance. Council members agreed that this issue needed to be looked into further and have referred the issue back into committee for a later date.

According to Council President Armondo Pavone, the council plans to discuss “what it would mean to tenants, but also property owners and developers and people who are providing the spaces.”

“(Referring the issue back to the committee) gives the staff a chance to give us the whole picture so we can do what’s in the best interest of the residents and the whole city,” he continued.

The ordinance stated the state legislature was expected to take up the issue. However the legislature has yet to pass any laws that prohibits landlords from discriminating based on source of income. SB 5407 and HB 1633, bills that protect from income source discrimination, are still in committee.