Seattle joined the cities of Auburn and Burien to cap late fees for rental payments to no more than ten dollars a month. Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2 – Southeast Seattle & Chinatown-International District) prime sponsored an amendment, and Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8 – At-Large) co-sponsored the amendment to restore the cap on late fees for renters at ten dollar per month, along with Councilmember Sawant.
“Today, renters across the city can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales, prime sponsor of the amendment. “Capping late fees at $10 is the bare minimum that the City can do for renters who are facing financial hardship. We know that wages are not rising at the same rate as the cost of housing. Being late on rent shouldn’t put people further in debt, and it should not jeopardize people’s ability to remain housed.”
As discussed over the course of the last few meetings in Committee, evidence shows that late fees do not incentivize on-time payment. Rather, data shows that renters consistently prioritize paying rent before all other bills because the prospect of losing housing through eviction has dire and compounding consequences. Late fees can also accumulate as debt and harm people’s credit scores, making it hard or impossible to acquire new rental units in the future.
“Seattle is following a growing number of cities in the region who are limiting late fees to ten dollars,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “We know renters consistently prioritize paying their rent over all other expenses. Losing housing can mean losing everything—and if a household is already having trouble paying their rent on time, adding large late fees on top only exacerbates their ability to pay, increases housing instability, and could increase the chance for more folks to fall deeper into debt or into homelessness. We must do everything we can to improve housing stability in our region – and this legislation helps.”
- A $100 dollar increase in rent is associated with a 9 percent increase in the estimated homelessness rate, according to a 2020 study by the Government Accountability Office.
- 51.7 percent of tenants evicted from housing in Seattle are people of color, according to a 2018 study by the Seattle Women’s Commission and Housing Justice Project.
- 52 percent of people evicted in Seattle were one month or less behind on rent, according to the same study.
Councilmember Sawant sponsored the original legislation in March capping fees at $10 per month. During committee two weeks ago, an amendment passed that would have capped the late fees to 1.5% of total rent instead of ten dollars. During today’s Council meeting, Councilmember Morales sponsored the amendment, with Councilmember Mosqueda and Sawant as co-sponsors, to return the cap on late fees to $10 per month. This amendment brings Seattle in line with the cities of Auburn and Burien who have already successfully passed a ten-dollar cap on late rental payments.