This afternoon, the Seattle City Council unanimously* approved sweeping new measures to regulate Seattle's rental housing stock and improve the living standards of thousands of tenants.
“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 council member Nick Licata, chair of the council's Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee, who deserves to be blown by a choir of angels for patiently shepherding this legislation through his committee. And, of course, Praise Be to the Tenants Union of Washington, which has been working on this issue for the last five years.
As I mentioned last Friday, when signed by the mayor, the new law will:
·Require every rental property to be registered with the city (between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016, depending on the number of units), pay a registration fee, and demonstrate that it meets basic health and safety requirements.
· Allow the city to randomly select at least 10 percent of Seattle's rental stock for an annual inspection. (Inspections are capped per building to minimize owner costs. For example, a building with more than 20 units would have 15 percent or less of its units inspected.) Every five years, inspected properties will be placed back into the inspection pool when their registration expires.
· Allow landlords to select a private inspector who's been certified by the city.
· Ensure that all of the city's registered rental housing stock is inspected at least once a decade.
· Allow citizens to lodge complaints about rental units and have the Department of Planning and Development respond by inspecting that unit.
If you're a renter, you should really go read the details, now in easy-to-digest summary form (.pdf)!
*Like half the council recused themselves, but still.