Landlords Grouse About New Housing-Inspection Law


as someone who looked at several cornell apts when we first moved here, this is a GOOD thing, so i'm not surprised flora's up in arms.

also, we're not talking about ...less than one percent of apartment buildings that have issues - we're talking about tenants brave enough to actually report the issues. most aren't.

good to see more sensible legislation coming from the city.
"johnson johnson" ?
Screw the landlords--I'm sure their historical response to providing smoke detectors and any other safety was that "big gubment was barging in and YO RENTS WILL GO UP!!!"
Solution: keep your property safe and up to code. If that means higher rent, then that's the going rate for not putting your tenants in danger. If you can't rent your property at a rate that keeps it safe, you shouldn't be renting.
The problem is really the definition of substandard. The higher you make it the more people you force out of the housing market and onto the streets. If I want to pay a few hundred bucks a month to rent a small space in someones basement either because I have to or want to, why can't I? Is it better in a shelter or on the street?

Sure, things that are fire hazards, in very poor shape, and the like, well thats a different matter, but this law includes things like square footage, required appliances, and other things that someone may very well happily like without for very cheap rent.

I am sure that the people kicked out of what you might find substandard will be quite happy on the street.
Flora warns that any new fees resulting from the ordinance could be reflected in higher rent.

But only, presumably, for units operated by landlords who are already breaking the law. Of course, the people who rent these units tend to be the least able to cope with rent increases. Theoretically, though, the increase in revenue should allow the city to boost funding for housing assistance. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.
square footage, required appliances, and other things that someone may very well happily like without for very cheap rent.

And there are many people, myself included, who would be completely fucked if my landlord suddenly decided I don't need a working fridge or stove. I can't afford to move according to the whim of a slumlord. If the government won't ensure that my landlord isn't supplying me with a reasonable home, who will?
Two of my former coworkers lived in Cornell buildings. Both of them had gray water leaks, which Cornell was very slow to fix. One of those coworkers also went a week without a lock on her front door.

Cornell has very good reason to be scared of this law.

IS supplying me.
@7 Well thats why you have a lease and the ability to report violations. Also a law that said that appliances provided had to be maintained is one thing. If you rent an apartment with the understanding that there is a working stove then you are entitled to just that and to have it repaired in a reasonable amount of time. Which is basically how the current law works.

But if say I never cook and am happy with a only microwave and really am only looking for a room with a bed and a bath, why should I not be able to do that?

I am not saying let landlords do whatever they want, but I do think that not everyone can or wants to afford what most of us consider a normal place and putting them out on the street seems rather cruel.
By the way I am all for ensuring people know about the reporting system. Requiring landlords, under stiff penalty, to provide say a brochure about it would have been much better. As would steep fines for dangerous conditions like bad water, bug infestations and the like. I only object to things like space requirements, appliances, and the like being universal. It makes it hard for the very poor to find places to live and without a place to live they have no chance at ever improving their lives.
@5, just because "some people" THINK they can get along just fine living in a 100 ft/sq. storage locker with no running water or toilet, or stove, or sink, or refrigerator, or heat, does that mean we should lower the bar to that level?

"Living standards" are just that: the basic level of accommodation we collectively agree is the minimum required for one to live with some modicum of dignity and privacy.

This is not a situation where we should cater to the lowest common denominator - otherwise, why not just throw out the standards completely and allow people to live in tents or open-sided tin-roofed shanties? Because, of course, the obvious answer is that, by doing so you create a whole raft of health, sanitation, privacy and other issues that more than negate any potential "savings" on your part.

There are basic amenities EVERY renter should expect and receive. Holding landlords to these minimum standards isn't placing an onerous burden on them, particularly if 99% of other landlords seem to have no difficulty complying with these standards. And my guess would be that most of the people currently living in substandard conditions would very much like to see those conditions improved - even if it meant a modest increase in their rent - but are simply too afraid of their landlords kicking them out to complain.
I thought the city was broke. I thought we were talking about laying off cops and firefighters. Now we have the money for a new inspection program?

Now, if somehow the city could figure out how to make money off this program... that's a different issue.
@12 I am simply saying that we should keep things the way there are now with more publicity for the ability to file a complaint. I never said we should have no standards, but if that storage shed has a space heater, access to a shared bath and kitchen, and is not unsafe, then why should I tell someone that they have to pay more or simply not be able to rent?

What I find interesting is that so many people are big fans of tent city, which is essentially a mobile shanty town, but someone renting a place thats too small and lacks a full kitchen needs to be stopped at all costs.
As a property owner, all I can say is great, it will help get rid of the shitty units in my neighborhood, bring in better tenants and raise the value of all the property in the area.

Too poor to afford the new, nice apartments? Then fuck off to SKyway or Renton where you belong.
Requiring landlords, under stiff penalty, to provide say a brochure about it would have been much better.

Ha! Yeah, that makes so much sense when the tenants of slumlords don't even know about current laws, let alone that they're entitled to a fucking brochure. Most landlords I've encountered don't even bother with the required mold disclosure.

There's nothing in my lease that says I'm entitled to a working refrigerator.
@16 Then lets spend more money on outreach and not do things that will make more people homeless.

@17 Mine did or at least had a provision about provided appliances. Nevertheless under the current law you are fine if your fridge breaks you are entitled to have it fixed rather quickly.
"victims of cultural or language barriers"

I believe those are entirely self-inflicted barriers.
@giffy --

I don't like slums or tent city for exactly those reasons. Tent city, however, doesn't charge rent. It doesn't attempt to establish itself as a solution to a housing problem. It is meant mostly for emergency housing where the alternative is more dangerous housing.

Now if you want to allow someone to live in your shed for free for three weeks rent-free, you're not really a landlord, are you?
IMO, there are 2 types of landlords in this city:
1. Cheap rent, no repairs, no response for property issues (fix it yourself or forget it). In exchange for this leniency, there are saftey hazards (i.e. "don't use the furnace"), minimal damage deposits, and tenants can do whatever they want.
2. More expensive rent, landlords will fix issues that come up, and deposits and move in/out reports are standard. These are the landlords who will report their rentals and have them inspected.

The slum-lord landlords who don't maintain things probably also don't have their properties listed as rentals (with the mortgage or insurance company). Seems to me that the new rules will give slum-lord tenants a more available option to have problems addressed, which seems like a good idea. There will still be plenty of rule-breakers. Anyone who has lived in a warehouse or any other space not zoned for living space knows how to break the rules and appear to follow them enough to pass inspections, just as slum-lord landlords know how to skirt landlord/tenant laws.
@12, that shit costs money, especially square footage. Who are you to decide that people can't live in small units? This shit happened in Bellevue in the 90s, a developer built units for retail workers as small as 300 sq ft, the city wanted them banned, but everyone who lived in them loved the cost savings and afford-ability.

The city spends millions creating "affordable housing" which in Seattle means permanently taxpayer subsidized, because you cant make a new 600sq ft unit and call it affordable, its impossible for what it costs to build. your choices are make smaller units, or do not live in seattle. by attempting to force larger units your forcing people out of the city.
@20 Tent City requires that you provide labor in order to live there (and with SHARE/WHEEL sometimes political activism). I consider that the same as rent.
@23 You're right. Providing labor to maintain your emergency shelter is exactly the same as rent.

When churches require the tenants in their emergency shelters to help serve meals and clean up their mats at the end of the night, they stop performing charity and become slum-lords.

You're also right that bill, if enforced, will become a tax on available housing. It will increase the homeless rate.

How is a broke city supposed to enforce this bill (unless it's designed to make enough money to pay for itself)?

How about the government institute policies that help 50 percent of people living in this city and not freak out over a miniscule percentage of those tenants? I greatly object to living at the mercy of my landlord because an insignificant number of people are desperate enough to volunteer to live in a hovel.

The unspoken government policy in this country about living conditions has been: Buy or fuck off and die. The real estate bubble has been the obvious result. Renting is such a raw deal, people bought with the full expectation of not staying in the same home for more than a few years. Now they're being forced to sell at a loss, stay in cities where they can't find work, or just walk away from their mortgages. Providing some semblance of tenants rights and ENFORCEMENT is simply good government policy.
@24 Who said a shelter is a slum. Most are clean and provide a decent place to sleep.

@25 Why are you at the mercy of your landlord? You can request an inspection right now. There are also groups like the Tenants Union who you can call and get help. If a landlord fucks you over you can also go to small claims court which is really quite easy. Plus many of the statutes award double or triple damages. The law gives rather strict time periods for repairs and allows you to withhold rent if they fail to fix it and do it yourself.

If anything this will mean your rent will go up a bit to cover the cost of an inspector coming in and not finding anything wrong.
It's none of anyone's business on the size of an apartment or rental space. Does it have heat, water, electricity, and bathroom facilities (either their own or shared, which is fine)?

If the answer is yes, then it's no one's business. Safety and "spatial comfort" are 100% mutually exclusive. Nice to have both, but they're not the same.…

If someone opts to live in a $200 closet or $400 tiny room in a house because it's what they can afford, who are we to judge? Isn't that better than making them homeless?

Unless, of course, my landlord isn't legally required to supply anything other than a roof over my head that isn't dangerous or doesn't pose a health violation, which is what YOU are advocating.

My current apartment just east of Capitol Hill is only slightly over 300 ft/sq and costs a mere $500 per month not including utilities, yet it has all the basic amenities one should expect from at-standard housing: heat, lights, water, a toilet, stove, two sinks and a refrigerator. The stove and fridge aren't full-sized, but for a single person they're more than adequate.

The issue here isn't unit size, it's what the tenant has a reasonable expectation of being provided within that square footage. If you don't have a refrigerator, you run into health issues because foods that require refrigeration can't be properly stored; without a stove you can't cook some types of food (and while microwaves are adequate for reheating relatively expensive processed foods, they're not so great when you're trying to save $$ by cooking from scratch, to say nothing of the potential health risks associated with eating constantly irradiated foods).

Yes, that "shit" costs money, nobody is refuting that. But, NOT providing them doesn't necessarily SAVE money for the tenant, because without them the "savings" are offset in other areas, such as purchasing more expensive processed or prepared foods, or having to purchase smaller quantities of perishable foods, which is generally more expensive, or having to use less efficient (not to mention more dangerous) portable heating systems, for example.

We're not talking granite counter tops and bamboo floors here folks; we're talking about the basic amenities that make a living space actually, you know, livable.
Let's follow giffy's lead and give Hugh Sisley a humanitarian award.
@13 (and others) - the City doesn't have money for a new inspection program. That is why rents will go up - the City is charging an as-yet-undetermined fee, annually, for every rental unit to be licensed. Then every 3 years, the landlord will have to pay an inspector (a private one who is certified according to the various requirements of the Ordinance unless your unit happens to either get selected for random inspection by the City, which hasn't even been figured out yet, or if it has had a violation and re-inspection by the City) for a "certificate" stating that the unit is in compliance with the law. For most landlords who already work to provide their tenants with clean, working, safe, habitable accommodations, this is just an extra burden that cuts down on the landlord's return on investment in owning and renting the property. Many landlords are going to choose to pass those costs on in the form of rent increases. If you haven't noticed, rents are not going up in Seattle, they have gone down. There is still too much housing stock out there due to all the excess that was built and then not sold just before the housing crash. Now landlords will be taking their slight "profits" from rentals and instead of putting those few extra hundred dollars back into the properties, in the form of new appliances, updating and upgrading systems, etc., they will be paying it to the City and private inspectors for MOSTLY unnecessary paperwork/inspections. I have to agree with giffy on most of what has been posted above.
@28, no thats not what I was advocating. I am, more than anything, advocating the status quo where people can complain, but can also accept something lacking when it saves them money.

That being said I think we can get carried away requirements. When I had an apartment my landlord wasn't required to provide a deck, or a microwave, or internet, or nice carpeting, or any number of things that my unit had but I still got them. Housing should be more regulated than other things because of its nature, but it is still a competitive marketplace where landlords know they have to keep tenants.

I don't think the law needs to require say a stove, but if we do away with that requirement then we should still say that if there is a stove in the unit when it is rented it needs to be maintained. Rules like that stand in the way of the kind of dense housing that allows people, who want to, to live in the City cheaply.
As a landlord of a duplex ( we live in the other unit ) I can say that my priority is a happy tenant. The stress/work involved with renting out your empty apartment over and over is not worth the few dollars one might save being a cheap tight ass landlord.

Does anyone know if this type of "inspection" is how the infamous brokers in the New York rental market got started? If so, I'd like to sign up for the job of inspector.
@31 -- my point exactly. This new ordinance has very little to do with substandard housing and very much to do with taxing landlords.

Should we tax landlords? Sure, why the f' not? We have to raise taxes on someone.
Suck it up, you greedy Republican douchetards. Endangering the health and safety of your tenants is not a God-given right and the government doesn't go around looking for excuses to expand. Take your money-grubbing hatred of being forced to not hurt other people and shove it up your ass where it belongs.
Given the harassment I endured after asking a previous landlady to have the leaking roof fixed (2 weeks of emptying buckets and not being able to turn on the light....then came the mold) and finally calling the tenants association for advice/help, this is a necessary action.
If the units are maintained, then the landlords have nothing to worry about.
In my most recent building, I told my manager that my stove was acting strangely. The next day I had the 24 hour repair visit notice taped on my door, and the day after that, I had a new stove - the old one was deemed a fire hazard and removed. That landlord has no reason to be concerned about this law (and I sure hope there's a unit open there when I move back to Seattle in the near future).
@17 etc- If you live in Seattle and your landlord provides any appliances, he/she is required by law to keep them in good working condition, if it is in your lease or not. Landlords fail to put current laws in leases ALL THE TIME. They will still be enforced in court. (Even if you sign a lease that doesn't include the laws- you are given the benefit because the landlord should have known to include it). Seattle courts are very, very pro-tenant. Your landlord is required by law to provide you with the Seattle Landlord Tenant Laws in writing, a Fire Safety notice for the specific property, a Lead Based inspection warning if your place was built before 1978 and others depending on where you are. They are also required by law to do a written move in inspection with you, that you both sign, or they can not keep ANY of your deposit- even if you tear the place up. Google the laws, they are very much in the favor of tenants.
As landlords, my wife and I encourage our tenants to report problems, and we always fix them immediately. We would never allow the kind of conditions described above in one of our apartments. And a law that forces bad landlords to live up to at least a reasonable standard of safety and comfort for their tenants seems like a good thing in general. But we are kind of worried about the new law because we don't know how picky the inspectors will be. Probably no one reading this lives in a building that is 100% perfectly compliant with existing building codes -- and maybe in some of our units they may be able to identify something that's are not absolutely perfect. So are they going to make us waste a ton of money on expensive "repairs" that our tenants don't care about or want? They might. Obviously the law is not intended to punish good landlords, but these things have a tendency to get out of control when put into practice.
"Suck it up, you greedy Republican douchetards."

Class envy can be so ugly. Still can't afford to buy? Fuck off to Renton why don't you.
51% of the housing in Seattle is rentals, no friggin wonder my taxes keep going up with all these feel good programs. Seattle has always and always will vote on higher taxes because it does not affect 51% of the people voting. This must be why all the politicians pander to the voters that vote on these higher taxes because it usually falls on teh shoulders of property owners and not the people actually paying the bill.