A Breakdown of Seattle’s First in Time Law

This summary is Seattle Rental Group’s explanation based on conversations with attorneys and city of Seattle representations, but by no means does this constitute legal advice! We are offering this as a starting point to help guide you in the right direction should you be curious about First in Time. Please contact your attorney before moving forward with any decisions. 

The city of Seattle has a few great resources:

Explaining First in Time and the Open Housing Ordinance Read the entire Ordinance here



First in Time went into effect on January 1, 2017 and was enforced starting on July 1, 2017 for all properties within the city of Seattle. It was challenged in court and temporarily paused, but on November 14, 2019 the State Supreme Court ruled it constitutional and started it up again.

What do I need to give to prospective tenants?

Screening criteria (including the minimum requirements and any docs that will be required) must be listed in all advertisements in order to give it to any potential renter before they apply. You can view our criteria at: seattlerentalgroup.com/screening-criteria

All of your advertising must have a description of your screening criteria or a link to the screening criteria.

Just like always, all screening criteria has to be uniformly applied to everyone – so whatever criteria are required for one applicant must be the same as what’s offered to all other applicants. If you change your criteria after people have already applied, you need to go back and offer them those same new terms.

When is an application “complete?”

An application is complete when the applicant has provided all the info that we state is required in the screening criteria. For Seattle Rental Group, this means they’ve visited or had a representative visit the property in person or did a live FaceTime/video tour, filled out the application fully, had employment verification completed, had landlord references completed, and had all supporting docs turned in. We time stamp when everything has been completed.

If an applicant needs additional time because of a disability or needing language interpretation services, then you would use the date and time of their request as the time stamp. You hold that original request time until they have had a reasonable amount of time to apply.

When do we need to give an applicant more time on their application?

You must give them 72 hours to provide information, starting at the moment you tell them what is needed, without them losing their place in line, in these circumstances:

  • You need more supplemental docs to support their application (that weren’t already required in the screening criteria)
  • You’re willing to approve them but with new conditions – such as last month’s rent, increased deposit, a cosigner, etc. If this is the case, you need to give them an Adverse Action Notice stating what the acceptable condition is.

If they don’t provide the requested info with the 72 hours, then you can move on to the next person.

I want to accept them – how much time do I need to give them to accept the offer?

You must give them 48 hours to accept the tenancy offer. If they don’t respond, you can move to the next person in line and give *them* 48 hours to accept.

Does having Section 8 vouchers change these timelines?

No – they still have 48 hours to accept the tenancy offer, even if the inspection from the Seattle Housing Authority hasn’t been done yet and may delay their move-in date.

Which properties does First in Time NOT apply to?

ADUs like backyard cottages, basement apartments or “mother in laws,” and roommates are exempt. It *does* still apply to duplexes even if the owner lives in one of the units.