Featured speakers at the Washington Landlord Association’s recent Winter Conference included Tim Seth, WLA Executive Director; Faith Lumsden, Seattle Code Compliance Director; Michael Chin, Seattle Office of Civil Rights; Steve Peters, CPA; Rebekah Near, CEO of Orca Screening; Alan Ruder, Attorney; Stuart Sinsheimer, Attorney; Bill Farmin, Process Server; Dennis Helmick, Exchange Facilitator; Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield Clean Up; Leo Birdsall, Fastrak Inspections; Kelly Koontz, Submetering; and Kyle Grinnel, Allwest Public Adjusters. There were approximately 150 members in attendance. Faith Lumsden talked about the new Seattle rental inspection program (see previous blog). Michael Chin talked about the need for non-discrimination in housing and employment, and what would be deemed “reasonable accommodation.” Landlords may not refuse tenants with Section 8 vouchers from applying, nor discriminate on the basis of veteran/military status, sexual orientation or familial circumstance. He also cited the City’s new Safe and Paid Sick Leave for companies with more than four full-time employees. (In a more recent meeting I had with City Councilman Richard Conlin, he talked about the Council discussion to prohibit criminal background from being considered during tenant screenings, as a way of alleviating social issues surrounding re-entry into the community for criminal perpetrators. Not a good idea, he admits, placing criminals in close proximity to potential victims). Both Steve Peters and Dennis Helmick talked about the looming “fiscal cliff” and some of the implications related to real estate holdings. It is expected that the tax rate on both long- and short-term capital gains will be going up; there will be a 3.9% Medicare surtax on investment income (e.g. rents) for high wage earners; the 2% reduction in payroll tax is set to expire; deductions for state sales taxes and mortgage interest may disappear; and there is a dramatic change anticipated in the gift and estate tax, with the exclusion lowering from $5million to $1million and the tax rate increasing from 35-55%. New state law requires the landlord to provide his list of screening criteria to tenants prior to accepting an application screening fee. Rebekah Near cited several examples of criteria that might be considered in screening tenant applicants. Some reasons for denying an applicant may include: --an open bankruptcy --any unpaid apartment collection, or any judgments for prior landlords --unpaid tax liens --if the tenant or any household member is a registered sex offender; has a history of disruptive, malicious behavior that may interfere with the peace and quietude of the community; has past evictions; etc. More free information and forms may be found on her website at www.orcainformation.com. More information on the WLA Winter Conference in my next post.