Seattle Tightens Rental Inspection Rules On Landlords

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The Seattle City Council has tightened rental inspection rules giving less notice to landlords before an inspection, according to reports.

The changes reduce the amount of advance notice landlords get that their building will be inspected from two months to 10 days. They will receive a 60-day notice of a pending inspection, but no specifics on which apartments will be inspected.

 The city’s Rental Registration and Inspection Code  requires landlords to register all rental housing units in Seattle, from single-family houses to large apartment buildings. The ordinance requires that all registered rental properties be inspected at least once every 10 years. The owner must hire a qualified rental housing inspector or City inspector to do the inspections

The RRIO is used to require landlords to register their buildings with the city. The city then randomly inspects those buildings to make sure they're up to housing codes, meaning they meet basic standards: working heating systems, no rat and roach infestations, no leaks, and so on. But the inspection program has significant shortcomings.

The changes, led by Council Members Lisa Herbold and Rob Johnson, will also increase the number of apartments city staff will look at during random inspections and, if one apartment fails inspection, will require that city inspectors look at more units in the same building.

New rental inspection rules

Currently landlords can hire private inspectors rather than allowing city staff on their property and they do not have to turn over those private inspectors' reports to the city. The new rules will require that buildings that fail inspections turn over those reports.

"We were excited that these amendments passed and it definitely does signal that the council is taking tenant rights issues seriously," Xochitl Maykovich, political organizer at the nonprofit Washington CAN, which organized tenants in a building with multiple code violations and lobbied the council for the changes, told thestranger.com.  "But where we will really see that dedication will be in the budget."

 Maykovich says the city should hire more inspectors and do more proactive outreach to educate tenants about their rights. Currently, about 14 city staff inspect apartments, according to Maykovich. Meanwhile, about 42 percent of Seattle residents—or 280,600 people—are renters.

The city council could continue to strengthen the inspection ordinance, but "if there's no enforcement or tenants don’t know what their rights are, then it doesn’t matter," Maykovich says.

In the council meeting Monday, Council Member Rob Johnson promised to "continue to do work in this fall's budget in order to make sure that we're adequately funding the department to continue to do their work."

Resources:

Seattle City Council Strengthens Failing Rental Inspection Program

Rental Registration And Inspection Ordinance

Photo credit Wavebreakmedia vis istockphoto.com

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