A while back I wrote about a law adopted in Seattle that forces residential landlords to rent their properties to the first minimally qualified applicant, regardless of other factors. I pointed out that such a requirement would likely lead to a reduced supply and higher prices for rental housing.
Now comes word that a Washington Superior Court judge has invalidated that law, on the ground that it deprives property owners of the right to freely dispose of their property, which the court recognized as a fundamental attribute of property ownership.
Nobody is suggesting that a property owner should be free to refuse to sell or rent property based on the prospective buyer/tenant’s personal characteristics. The problem here is that in an effort to prevent any possible discrimination, lawmakers are taking away a basic liberty that should be enjoyed by everyone. If I choose to eat at one restaurant over another because the wait staff at the first restaurant treats me better than the wait staff at the other restaurant, shouldn’t I be free to make that choice?
Now, why isn’t the District of Columbia law that mandates a right of first refusal for residential tenants when the landlord wants to sell his or her property, invalid for the same reason that the Seattle law was found to be invalid?
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