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Heard of rent bidding? Seattle officials worry it could drive up costs

Apartment buildings in the University District, Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott
Apartment buildings in the University District, Seattle.

You've heard of the bidding wars for houses in the Seattle area, and now people are competitively bidding for rental apartments. Seattle lawmakers are trying to cut off the practice, known as rent bidding, before it takes off in the city.

On websites like Rentberry and Biddwell, landlords post an apartment and suggested rent, and prospective tenants can bid higher (or lower) to try to win the lease.

There's concern it could drive up rents even higher in Seattle, a city with already the fastest growing housing prices in the nation.

A City Council committee has passed a measure to prohibit rent bidding for the next two years in Seattle. City Councilmember Debora Juarez says the new technology needs regulation, and she pushed for the moratorium to be two years instead of one.

Juarez: "We are concerned about whether or not this violates our current city housing laws, we do need to know the impact of what that means in the long run."

The moratorium would ban platforms and landlords from running a bidding process for Seattle rentals. The full City Council will decide March 19 whether to approve the moratorium.

Rentberry confirmed to KUOW that it's operating in Seattle, but declined to comment on the proposal.