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Seattle close to adopting cap on rental move-in fees

Seattle renters could get a break on rental costs as soon as mid-January. A City Council committee advanced a measure Tuesday that would cap move-in fees.

Lawmakers previously delayed the legislation by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, wanting to study it further. But with a few tweaks, Sawant saw it unanimously move forward out of her committee. That sends it for a full Council vote on December 12.

Under the measure, the total cost of move-in fees and security deposits could not be more than the cost of one month's rent. Landlords could charge an additional pet deposit, but only if it's a quarter of one month's rent. All fees could be paid over a span of six months.

Sawant says it will help renters who can't afford high fees. Supporters also say the measure would help people who need to move quickly, including survivors of domestic violence.

But many Seattle landlords say it will hurt them financially. Brad Lefton testified to the committee that this and other tenant regulations are deterring landlords.

Lefton: "My intention now is to take duplexes that I have, I'm going to mow them down, and I'm going to put condos in and walk away with my money. I've always wanted to be a fair landlord, but if you keep doing this you're putting us out of business."

Small landlords have said they could lose money if they don't collect the fees all at once and someone moves out.

Councilmember Mike O'brien, a small landlord himself, is in favor of the move-in fees cap.

If the measure passes next month, it could go into effect by the end of January.

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