Adopted by the City Council in 2016 and in effect since last year, the groundbreaking law "has a laudable goal of eliminating the role of implicit bias in tenancy decisions," King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Parisien said in a written ruling.
But choosing a tenant "is a fundamental attribute of property ownership," Parisien said in striking down the law.
The decision is a victory for landlords represented by an attorney from the Bellevue office of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
The law allows initial screening of applicants based on standards such as credit scores.
But the plaintiffs claimed forcing landlords to accept the first qualified applicant violated their property, due-process and free-speech rights, and the judge sided with them on each point.
"While landlords are permitted to set their own rental criteria," Parisien said, "this preliminary, general rental criteria does not substitute for the discretion to choose a specific tenant."