Rentberry v. City of Seattle: Can Seattle Rein in The Free Market Without Violating the First Amendment?

By: Kyle Cianchetta Is bidding on rental properties on the internet “commercial speech,” thus protected by the First Amendment, or conduct which may be regulated by the government. We will likely find out this year, as Judge Jones of the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, is set to rule on the matter. In March, the Seattle City Council approved Ordinance No. 125551, which amended Seattle’s Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance. That ordinance pressed pause on Rentberry’s innovative, rent-bidding platform. The platform would allow prospective renters to bid against one another, much like an auction, with the highest bid becoming the monthly rent owed to the landlord. In June, Rentberry moved for a preliminary injunction, but later filed cross motions for summary judgment against the city of Seattle. Setting aside justiciability issues, the case boils down to whether Rentberry’s rent-bidding platform is…

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