Olympia for All advocates for 'Landlord Fairness Code' as rental inflation outpaces wage growth


In response to the rising rental increases and housing crisis in Olympia, a group called Olympia for All is pushing for a measure adopting a citizen's initiative they call a "Landlord Fairness Code," which they say is "a modest, reasonable set of reforms to slow down the cost of rent and reduce housing instability in the community."

This initiative aims to protect tenants by:

  • Requiring landlords to comply with tenant protection laws before raising rent or evicting a tenant.
  • Prohibiting unfair or excessive fees.
  • Requiring landlords to provide notice of rent increases and pay relocation assistance when significant rent increases require tenants to relocate.
  • Prohibiting certain student/school-year, cold-weather evictions, and evictions based upon a tenant's status as a servicemember, first responder, senior, family member, health care provider, or educator.
  • Providing penalties and other enforcement mechanisms.

In an email to The JOLT, Dr. Carolyn Byerly, Olympia for All steering committee member, said the campaign strongly overlaps with those of the city council's rental housing code.

The movement's website states that the measure aims to tackle the root cause of homelessness, emphasizing the issue of housing instability.

"Housing instability occurs when tenants are overburdened with rent that exceeds 30% of their monthly income… The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Olympia skyrocketed 88% between 2015 to 2023," it stated. 

"This is a statewide and national problem," added Byerly, a former Howard University, Washington D.C. professor.

The Olympia City Council is slated to deliberate on relocation assistance and additional renter protection code on April 9.

Skyrocketing rent fees across the nation

Olympia's predicament reflects the same trend of soaring rental fees nationwide.

The number of renter-occupied housing units in the United States has steadily risen over the past several decades, according to www.statista.com. In 2022, approximately 44 million rental housing units were occupied nationwide, continuing an upward trend seen since 2010, suggesting a steady increase in the renter population – a pattern observed since 1975.

According to the Real Estate Witch website, rent prices from 1985 to 2020 increased dramatically by 149%, outpacing the 35% income growth over the same period.

The website also stated that the lack of affordable housing supply is causing steep increases in rental rates. In 2021 alone, home values jumped by 17% nationwide, preventing many prospective homebuyers from the ownership market. It resulted in significant demand for rental properties. However, vacancy rates dropped to 5.6% in 2021. The limited supply of rental units has empowered landlords to jack up the prices consistently.

While rental rates increased sharply over the previous two years across most of the country, the Statista research published in January this year showed that 2023 saw a modest decline in the national average rent of approximately 1%. Oregon recorded the largest decrease. Even in expensive rental markets like California, where apartment rents are among the highest in the nation, rents declined by 1.84% compared to 2022 levels.

iPropertyManagement.com stated that while data suggests rental inflation has slowed, rents still grow faster than wages each year.

According to new data published on the website on March 4, rental costs across the U.S. have consistently increased in recent years.

The average national Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment increased by 13.70% year-over-year, significantly outpacing the average annual wage growth. At the same time, average home prices jumped by an even higher 18.83% over the past year.

Rental costs in urban areas, which tend to be higher than in suburban and rural regions, have also risen, according to the data. From January 2021 to January 2022, average urban rents increased 4.4% year-over-year.

State-level rental data also showed wide variations, with Massachusetts seeing a substantial 38.6% jump in the cost of a typical two-bedroom apartment between 2020 and 2021. In contrast, Delaware renters saw a 26.95% decline over the same period. The findings highlight ongoing geographic disparities in rental price trends across states and metropolitan versus non-metropolitan areas.

The website provided data on state-level rent increases per year on two-bedroom apartments. Some locations experienced rental price surges above the nationwide average with over 7% increases from 2020 to 2021:

  • California’s FMR for a two-bedroom apartment stands at $2,030. From 2020 to 2021, the rate increased by 25.77%. The average renter will have a total of $4,99 more in 2021.
  • Connecticut’s FMR increased by 20.90% from 2020 to 2021. The average renter paid a total of $2,952 more in 2021.
  • The District of Columbia saw an increase in rental prices from 2020 to 2021, with FMR for a two-bedroom unit increasing by 15.59%. This represents an additional cost of $2,088 for the average renter in D.C. over the year.
  • In 2021, the average renter in Maine paid a total of $2,904, representing a 27.82% FMR increase from 2020 to 2021.
  • Massachusetts saw a significant increase in rental prices from 2020 to 2021, with FMR increased by 38.60%. This represents an additional cost of $6,300 for the average renter.
  • Hawaii saw an increase in rental prices from 2020 to 2021, with the FMR increased by 18.72%. This represents an additional cost of $3,708 for the average renter.
  • Illinois’ FMR is $1,150, which increased by 12.75% from 2020 to 2021. The average renter paid a total of $1,560 more in 2021.
  • New Jersey’s FMR increased by 20.78%. This represents an additional cost of $3,432 for the average renter.
  • New York’s FMR increased by 35.22% or an additional cost of $5,532 for renters from 2020 to 2021.
  • Washington’s FMR increased by 12.14% from 2020 to 2021. This means the average renter paid a total of $1,980 more in 2021.
  • Delaware saw a significant decline in rental prices from 2020 to 2021, with the FMR declining by 26.95%. This represents a savings of $5,184 for the average renter in Delaware over the year compared to 2020 rental prices.

Some states saw increased FMR within single-digit percentages, but most did not exceed the national average rate increase.


11 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • DHanig

    If I understand the proposal correctly, a tenant could refuse to pay rent starting September of each year and the landlord would be unable to evict the tenant until July of the following year.

    If passed, many housing providers in Olympia will likely exit the market, shrinking the housing supply and hurting more renters.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    The "modest, reasonable set of reforms" that this group proposes is anything but modest or reasonable.

    For instance, a rental owner could be forced to provide a unit rent-free for as much as nine consecutive months under some circumstances. That's three quarters of a year. How many businesses could survive if their income were reduced by 75%?

    This problem is in the process of fixing itself, as rents are leveling off in many areas. So why are these "modest, reasonable" proposals being put forward now? Perhaps so the sponsors can claim credit.

    I urge everyone not to sign the petition for this proposal. And if it gets to the ballot, to vote NO.

    Bob Jacobs

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • jimlazar

    I am an economist who understands how markets work. I am also a former landlord of three residential properties.

    Tenants deserve reasonable treatment. Abusive behavior by landlords AND tenants is not acceptable. But when government inserts itself into a market, it needs to understand the consequences of this action. If being a landlord is made less attractive, owners of single-family properties can sell them to prospective home owners, and the units are lost to the rental market. I have friends in the process of doing exactly that now.

    I sold my rentals exited the business because the return I could get by investing in boring mutual funds were approximately what I could expect to earn by operating rental properties, without the hassle or the regulatory burden. Since I sold my properties 20 years ago, the S&P 500 has averaged about a 10% return. That is providing me a reasonably comfortable retirement. I don't need the hassle of being a landlord in an increasingly regulated marketplace.

    The apartment owners are in a different position. They cannot easily sell their units to individual owners. This theoretically possible, through condominium conversion, but there are other obstacles to a conversion that are not easily overcome.

    One alternative would be to impose stricter regulation on apartment owners, but not on individuals who one only a couple of homes. That would avoid the loss of existing rental units in the marketplace. It would, however, discourage new development of apartments, and that's no way to solve a housing crisis.

    The ultimate solution is to pay living wages to those who are working, and to provide socially-supported housing to those who cannot earn an income.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Stop treating real estate as a savings account. Buy bitcoin.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • sonshi

    Our house 'came with' three tenants when we bought back in 2020. All were paying 50% below market rates, and their utilities were included [!!]. In the two subsequent years our property taxes skyrocketed by over $4000 a year. We do have a nice house and property which we like very much, never needed or wanted to be 'landlords'. We raised rent on only one of the units, and raised it by $50 a month from $800 to $850 after the moratoria ended and we were allowed to do so. That would technically be over the threshold for paying relocation assistance. The mandated inspection would be at least $300, business license/rental registration fees another hundred or so, ridiculous considering we had thousands in on inspections and fixes when we bought the place. There's a short staircase going into one of the units that 'only' has one handrail [consistent with the current WAC building code]. The current inspection list mandates two handrails. There's a wall and concrete that would have to be torn up to install that second handrail, at least a grand there. This last year there was also a nearly passed mandate for landlords to report 'on time' rental payments. Just setting that up would have been a lot of upfront money, a couple grand was one estimate. Fortunately that didn't pass [yet].

    Our inherited tenants had a great deal, we never gouged anyone. This continued targeting of 'landlords' and lumping them all into one group is going to have a very predictable effect. We now have no tenants, and never will again. Just the initiatives over the past 2 years would have taken a significant portion of our entire rental income for a year. . .and accomplished *nothing* for either us or our tenants. We would end up on Olympia's list for subsequent 'initiatives', and no doubt this nonsense will continue every year. The registry fees will fund multiple FTEs to the tune of >300$ grand a year to regulate Olympia landlords. No thanks.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • tolerd

    Its amazing that we have rents increasing 13% a year and the industry thinks there is no problem. It's clear that with rents rising over twice CPI inflation, the system is broken. But as you can read in commnets here, they want the right to raise them another 13% this year and next and..... It's a real trajedy to see the small llandlords do the bidding of corporate housing conglomerates. A real sttrategic mistake on their part!

    People who work hard everyday should not have to worry about whether they can afford a roof over their head. The housing industry brought this on themself with their inability to provide us affordable housing.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    Blaming landlords for rent increases is like beating the dead horse because the load was too heavy. Landlords have to pay property taxes, business taxes, have to do maintainance on their rentals after a careless renter has trashed it , renters who've refused to pay rent, violated the lease (like bringing in unhousebroken or flea ridden pets when the lease says no pets) or used it improperly (for instance, flushing baby wipes down the toilet). Do the people writing the 'fairness code" understand that it should be "fairness for EVERYBODY"? Landlords have to pay for their own residences as well as their rentals. The government thinks that property tax is the only way to make money.

    Aftger renting my home out to three different families (all at reasonable raters) while I was stationed overseas resulted in two of them refusing to pay rent, (evictions aren't cheap) one bringing in two big dogs who destroyed the carpet, one woman who's convicted felon boyfriend threatened to kill my property manager when she insisted he had to have a background check, one family allowed their kids to shoot .22 caliber handguns INSIDE the garage, and one family forged a document changing the lease to a 'rent-to-own lease' because they 'really like the place' and didn't want to move out.

    So I was out about $40K for replacing carpets, repairing the garage, loss of rent, and I'm now the bad guy? I'm the unfeeling, greedy landlord? My arse. I will never, ever ever rent out my home again. I will burn it down before I ever rent again.

    Friday, April 5 Report this

  • Carolyn Byerly

    There are some issues to connect here in understanding the importance of a landlord-tenant measure such as Olympia for All has proposed. First, is that while the situation with rent increases is a national problem, the rents in Ithaca have surpassed the national average of accelerated increases.

    Second is that the cost of rent is related to our homeless problem. Thurston County just yesterday released its new homeless figures, showing that we have more homeless people this year than last. Rent increases are linked to homelessness everywhere.

    Third, renters are now organizing and demanding that local governments do something to address their plight. Today's (April 5) issue of the New York Times had a big story and photo of renters protesting in Manhattan City Hall, demanding action on rents there. Coast-to-coast, these demands are growing.

    It is important to mention that our own Olympia City Council is considering a package of measures to address rent increases that incorporate most of Olympia for All's points/demands. These will be discussed and voted on Tuesday (April 9) at the Council's meeting. It's my understanding that several (perhaps a majority) of the County Commissioners are supportive of the city's plans.

    What I would like to hear from a few more landlords is concern for this problem and some genuine empathy for those at the margins struggling to make ends meet and who are frightened of being priced out of their homes. One of them is a young single mother our family knows who finally saved up enough money to secure a small apartment for herself and child, only to have her rent increased after the first six months. She has gig employment and an uncertain future. We call this precarious housing circumstances, and we can do something about it with better public policy.

    Friday, April 5 Report this

  • treedolympia

    Landlord and Tenant protections are essential and currently tenants are being subjected to abuse due to corporate landlords. Private landlords arent where we are seeing the majority of issues tenants face. Corporate landlords are the ones charging excessive fees to hundreds of tenants at a time. I work with tenants across the state who have fallen victim to corporate greed. Ill share some examples of what complexes in Olympia are doing....

    1. Application fee 75 per adult

    2. Administration fee 250

    3. Security Deposit 1450

    4. First and last to move in 2900.00

    5. Pet Deposit ( non refund.) 500.00 ( then its not a deposit)

    6. Pet rent 30.00 per month

    7. If you want to be month to month 300.00 ( non refundable fee)

    8. Entry into your unit if locked out 75.00

    10. Late fee 25.00 for the first day and 5.00 each additional day

    11. Rent increases every 6 months 180.00 ( 1st one) 150.00 ( 2nd) .. over 300 in one year

    180 units

    $54,000 per year in rent increases ( average)

    $21,600 per year collected for pet rent (low average 1/3 units have a pet )

    Pets dont work and there isnt even garbage service in the complex

    This is one example of the hundreds that call our statewide tenant hotline per month and my personal experience.

    I have never met a person that received their deposit back from a corporate landlord.

    If tenants are required to make 3 times the amount of rent to move in, it should be illegal to increase rent so high that you disqualify your tenant. Reasonable increases should be 1 to 5 percent per year. What some complexes are doing ( as in my case) they raise certain peoples rents. If your going to raise the rent for one unit you should should raise them all and not a 30% increase either. I didnt get a 900 per month


    Westlakes Apartments....... Predators

    Private landlords have higher risks with their tenants and they should not be subjected to the exact same regulations as corporations. However they should also be held to uphold their duties. My personal experience with private landlords is drastically different. I aways got my deposit back minus minimal charges. Private landlords are not driving rent prices up, corporations and developers are. Alot of landlords are taking advantage of the market and increasing their rents at the same pace and at the same cost to tenants. Thats called running a business. And prices are inflated. In order for communities to thrive people need affordable housing . PERIOD

    If you are doing business as a landlord you should have to register as a business and pay taxes on that business and be held to certain standards to protect the consumer ( renter) and your business ( rental unit).

    One last thing.... Landlords report money owed to the credit bureau when you move out damaging their score ... They should report monthly rent payments to the credit bureaus. If someone has ontime payments for 5 years and falls on hard times and is evicted their 60 months of ontime payments means nothing..... Just a thought. At the end of the day we need tenant protections and our lawmakers need to make decisions in the best interest of the people.. not private businesses or corporate developers.

    Sunday, April 7 Report this

  • longtimeresident

    The Westlakes Apartments mentioned as predators by treedolympia? That explains why they have not enabled messages (reviews) on Yelp, and THAT says everything.

    Wednesday, April 10 Report this

  • JnNwmn

    Numbers can be deceiving. While rents have gone up 149% since 1985, property taxes have gone up 500%. While rents have gone up 149%, insurance has gone up 400%. Property prices have gone up 1000% since 1985. Wages have NOT kept up and the numbers show it. Rezoning Olympia and increasing rent regulations will NOT change these facts. Olympia For All needs to advocate for higher wages for All. Olympia For All needs to advocate for more Affordable Housing requirements. Olympia For All needs to tell their State legislators to pass laws to facilitate affordable housing. Rents are not going down but affordable housing should be going up.

    Sunday, April 21 Report this