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Friday, December 14, 2012

Mandatory Rental Inspection in Seattle

1:50 PM
I attended two big property management conferences in Seattle this week: the Washington Landlord Association's Winter Conference on Lake Union on Saturday, Dec. 8 and the Trends NW Trade Show at the Convention Center on Tuesday, Dec. 11. I will report on the discussions from these conferences over the course of the next few blogs. One of the biggest news items at these conferences was the recent legislation by the City of Seattle to require mandatory inspection of rental units, beginning in 2014. Properties with 5 and more units are to register by 2014, and properties with less than five units must register with the City by December 31, 2016. The City will then require inspections of random units, until every unit has been inspected once or twice in ten years. Faith Lumsden, the new Seattle Code Compliance Director, stated that at this point the City has no ideas what the fees will be. The City Council directed that the inspection program be self-supporting, so fees have to cover the department's costs (which are unknown at this time). It is likely that the owner/landlord will pay to have their own inspection done, at around $300-400 per unit. The reason the City decided to require inspections was to deal with sub-standard housing units within the city limits. This may be only a small fraction of the total rental units, but the City could propose no other approach that would be equitable or fair to all rental property owners. Housing advocates say 5-10 percent of Seattle's 42,000 rental units are believed to be unsafe. The inspections will cover such items as minimum square footage, egress and ingress, provision of heat, water, weather-tight enclosure, etc. "I have great hopes that this program will improve the conditions of renters living in substandard housing. A similar program in Los Angeles has resulted in a $1.3 billion re-investment in the City's rental housing stock while costing tenants in LA less than $13 year," said Councilmember Nick Licata, Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee Chair. Many landlords say those costs will be passed on to tenants.

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