FUCK YES: City Council Passes New Rules for Landlords

Comments

1
Yes, but is it going to actually happen?

The non-resident property owners rarely allow the peasants in Seattle to have rights ...
2
I'd be curious to know where Mr. Licata found the number implying $1.3B investment in improvements by prappity owners.

Assuming this refers to L.A. city limits (rather than metro area, etc.), $13 x 783,530 occupied rental units = ~$11M if he means $13 additional cost per unit, or $13 x 2,139,036 = ~$28M if he's talking about the total number of tenants (2.73 per rental unit in L.A.).

http://losangeles.areaconnect.com/statis…

In my experience, landlords tend to raise rents quite quickly even if they make superficial and inexpensive cosmetic improvements, or on any mention in the press of a housing "crunch" or any economic news implying increased ability to pay.

On the other hand, the current rental vacancy rate there is 3.5% (same source), which if memory serves is high enough to provide downward pressure on rents.
3
(The $1.3B probably includes unamortized new construction, but still.)
4

My guess is that rents are going to plummet as most landlords have their properties on automatic assuming that Seattle is "so great" people pay anything to live here and now they'll have to reach into their bank accounts to make spec. That will make them want to sell, whereupon they'll be up against a 9% unemployment rate and a coming glut in new rentals.
5
This is stupid law. I hope homeowners raise rents by $100 across the board to cover the cost of something so banal and excessive.

Really? IF you live in a slum of a house with a bad landlord, you have rights even without this law!
6
@5,

Tell that to people living in a slum of a house with a bad landlord. In this city, under existing law, you have two choices: move out and sue your landlord for your deposit; sue your landlord and risk retribution from someone who has a set of spare keys to your home.
7
great, another excuse for my douchebag landlord to raise the rent.
8
@ 3 - existing housing stock: http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/award…
@ 5 Units will be inspected only every 5-10 years (depending on random selection)...and only a sampling of units (10-15%) in multi-unit bldgs. How costly do you really think that will be? Plus the inspection will only be of 14 serious code standards...not the entire Housing Building Maintenance Code.
9
Amen #5. One more reason not to own rentals in Seattle. I own one rental house...my Mothers old home I inherited. Its next door to me. Its kept up as well as my own house. Now the fucking city says I have to PAY to have it inspected??? Its gonna get passed on as a fee or in the rent...that really helps poor people. Register it??? Oh hell no. Ill sell it first. One less rental in the city. One more example of the fucking nanny state in action.
10
@9 - if a whole bunch of Mom's Old Place rentals suddenly go on the market, the price of houses will drop and a lot of those people currently renting might be able to buy. Go ahead and sell, though - you might find there are better things to do with the capital. Single family houses aren't very good rental properties.

This doesn't strike me as anything that anybody serious about operating residential properties would worry about. Sure its a bit of additional cost but whatever - an hour's inspection once ever 5-10 years per unit. How bad can it be? It would would out to a few bucks a month.

People running fleabags will have plenty to worry about, though.

11
Thanks, @8. While that's not much over 14 years (<$120, roughly, per rental unit), it's almost $900 per "habitability violation," a significant amount of forced improvement. But the cost per unit hardly justifies the expense of sending out even one notice-of-rent-increase letter over that time span.
12
(Confirms what @10 said.)
13
This will fuck with weed prices.
14
I do not think rental prices will go down. Somehow it's really hard for me to imagine why some of you think so. The cost of inspection as well as any renovation necessary will be passed along to the renter. Duh. Sometimes regulation is a great thing, sometimes it just adds to the hassle and cost.
I am a landlord -small 3 unit place. My major job is making sure the tenants CALL ME when things go wrong so that they can be addressed in a timely fashion. My other major job (in relation to renting these out) is cleaning up after otherwise stylish/well paid/ought to know better folks move out. The amount of furniture and junk I've had to haul away is amazing. Deposit? Sure, I can keep it but sometimes it's less hassle to give it back and just do the work myself. Why? People do weird things when you hold their money, even if it deserves to be held. A lesson I learned early on and never forgot. I'd rather cut my losses.
So for all you folks who are so down on your landlords, I'm sorry you never had a good one. But I'm willing to bet some of you left behind that old dresser, junk in the closet, or painted -without permission-your rooms a really unique shade of puke or let your dog pee on the carpet. Because, hey, that's the landlord's problem, right?
Some of us try to keep a good place and make sure it's all up to reasonable use standards. Bringing in inspectors whose VERY JOB will depend on creating a checklist of needs won't bring your rent down-or your standards up much. People choose to live in rundown places because the price is low. Say goodbye to that. And if something goes wrong in a place, believe me, the current landlord-tenant agreement in Seattle favors tenants. So yes to bad, bad people who rent a dump. But if you're looking for low rents, kiss that goodbye.
15
One big problem: we have a tax code that rewards waiting until things break rather than being proactive. Landlords can deduct repairs the year they're made, but improvements aren't as good a deal. Switching that around would make rental housing a lot better and life easier for the tenants.
16
If you want fair taxation, jack up the property taxes on anything beyond a primary residence.
17
See look, this is exactly what this state needs:

Rob McKenna proposes a property tax...
http://www.propertytaxswap.com/

And they should include financial assets as property.

18
Would this allow a landlord to select property in between tenants for inspection? Does passage of this ordinance mean that renters will be subjected to an inspection of their homes by city staff an average of once every 10 years?
19
As both a landlord of a single condo unit in Seattle and a tenant in the apt I now live in, I can't comprehend how $12/year would phase a rental owner (or renter, for that matter) -- the advertising value of being able to state "registered; passed inspection" is arguably worth more than that, as is the value (for a tenant) of knowing you live somewhere that meets minimum health health and safety standards. I imagine quite of few of the large, dilapidated complexes (I'm picturing several buildings in U-district and Cap Hill...some of which I lived in in my college days) are going to have some problems with how the inspections turn out for them, but isn't that the point? Why have safety standards if we ignore it when they're not met?

@16: I dunno about that. A better move in the same direction (but requiring change at the federal level) would be to stop allowing federal mortgage interest deductions for non-primary/vacation homes.
20
Does this help the residents in Sisley slumhomes (oops, rental homes) in Ravenna/Roosevelt? Or will the Sisley torture our neighborhoods forever? Laws are no good if they aren't enforced.
21
So here is a few other issues with the whole thing:

I don't read anything that exempts people that rent a room from the code. It also precludes anyone that might have a non-conforming rental, such as a mother-in-law, to rent out. There is just too much risk, and if the renter decides to be a jerk, he could threaten the homeowner by saying they will call the city on the landlord.

This will reduce the number of available bedrooms and raise the overall rents across the city.

#10: A general inspection costs $500. There is no fine for getting it wrong. You think that with the stiff penalties associated with these inspectors they will limit the cost of this? BS.

#6. That's not true. The Landlord Tenant act is very forgiving on renters, not on homeowners. Go ahead and re-read the dang thing.

#10: SFH are the best rentals... they are much better than a condo or a co-op (if they allow them). Sure, some can buy a triplex, and that would be good, but that's cost prohibitive. Fact is that most homeowner's are accidental landlords that I know of... this prohibits them from doing such... increasing the overall cost for the whole thing. Usually people get married and buy a bigger house, selling one, but not the other. Then they are rammed with a $500 inspection fee, have to register it, pay a registration fee, and then pay for a maintenance fee if they don't manage it themselves. You want to incrase the overall cost of rentals in the city, this is the right law to pass. Create a division that support complaints, but don't make the landlords have to increase their rents!

22
@21: Where does it say the homeowner/lessor is responsible for an inspection fee that is $500? I read the whole thing (not just the .pdf this article links to), and it doesn't say that. The way I initially read it, it seemed that the $12 goes toward paying for the inspections of the 10% of the units -- but perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part (shouldn't this bill explicitly state how the inspections are paid for? IT DOESN"T SAY. Not even implicitly.). However, if it IS the case that the landlord pays the full cost of inspections, it would be absurd if the inspection costs were much over $100: full home inspections for prospective buyers are in the $200 to (rarely) $500 range, but those are very in-depth inspections. These rental safety inspections are simple and include exactly 13 check-boxes, all listed within the bill (examples: #10: garbage can access; CHECK; #13: working smoke detectors; CHECK).
23
Isn't this the same city council that just declared an emergency against building houses?

This plan will murder rental inventory on the short term, and I doubt it will ever recover with our current building codes. Now that people in non standard rentals are on the street, expect some dimwitted SHA ask for more money to pay for new condos on 1st hill.

24
I understand the intention behind this law, but basically it amounts to forced gentrification.

If a landlord is forced to spend 100k updating his shithole building, he's going to raise the rent to reflect the increased market value of his improvements, and his existing tenants will be priced out.

If anything, there should be a law mandating more shithole apartments so broke people have somewhere in the city they can afford to live.

25
It seems kind of dumb to crow about this law ("fuck yes") on behalf of renters in substandard housing, since this is, in effect, just a gentrification program. Landlords who clean up their slums can and will rent them for higher prices, driving more low income residents out of the city.
26
@24: If I had refreshed the page and saw your comment I could have skipped writing mine. You said it better.
27
Expect lots of those MIL apartments to be pulled off the market in a few years. Most of those landlords who have one or two units to rent out are going to be scared to find out how much money they would have to spend to be up to this new code and will probably not renew current leases and then not put those units back on the market.

The city council may have just helped increase the shortage of rental units in Seattle.
28
There's no way around the fact that there are horrible property owners out there. Just a month or so ago I got pulled into a situation where the landlord was trying to evict some legitimate renters because he wanted to tear down the house they were in. They had paid their rent through the end of the month, so he sent a thug with a baseball bat to the house to smash the electrical meter (which burnt up the meter base and conductors)

Another gem of a landlord took a windowless, unheated storage room in an old apartment building on First Hill and converted it to three "studio apartments" with common bath.

OTOH, my last apartment was in a building that went section eight. The condition of the building actually improved, as the Feds send inspectors out to make sure things meet their standards - and I believe they are reimbursed for at least some of those improvements.

I would say that the inspections are needed, but they should be based on tenant complaints: once a property owner has recieved, say, fifteen complaints, they are put on the list.

(And that reminds me of another thing: they need to crack down on sleazy husband/wife -or wife/wife and husband/husband- teams who put half the buildings in one name and the other half in the other's)
29
@27 - Anyone who owned and rented out an unauthorized Mother In-law Unit before 6/30/2010 could have registered their unit with out penalty: http://www.queenanneview.com/2010/01/13/…

30
Seattle has more than its fair share of wicked landlords. If they find these new laws too cumbersome or expensive, expect to see a lot of condo conversions - not that there shouldn't be better renters' rights in Seattle.
31
Holy shit Cienna is a stupid cunt.
32
What the hell, people?! There are a lot of renters living in slums - for you this may mean just scuzzy places, but the reality is black mold and other health hazards with very little recourse for addressing these concerns. We have inspectors for the restaurants we eat in; it seems like a no-brainer that we need them for the places we live in.
33
@16 has a good point.

A better idea would be to cap deductibility of taxes on all property above $250,000 valuation, and also remove it for people with earnings/dividends/options above $250,000.

This would cause the market to self-correct. Artificial subsidies at the top end are the most expensive and least productive.
34
Does this help the residents in Sisley slumhomes (oops, rental homes) in Ravenna/Roosevelt?

Oh you kidder you! Of course not. The City Council admitted several months ago that they cannot and will not do anything about Sisley. He and the other slumlords won't be touched by any of this. The law is aimed straight at small landlords who compete with downtown money.

The Stranger and its readers (mostly young renters) are such suckers. Your rents are going to increase by at least 30% in the next few years. Part of it will be this. The real cost won't be the inspection fees, although you can be sure they'll be passed right through, and probably with a markup. The big costs will be in the repairs they trigger, which will hit the lower end of the market the hardest but also the middle of the market too, and the effect of units withdrawn from the market by owners who are afraid they won't pass.

The people who are for this are mainly those who have never owned anything, and hence are unfamiliar with just how much it costs to do even minor work on a place. And anyone who thinks those inspections will somehow be light or limited, all I can do is laugh. A building inspector is paid to find violations, and the code makes it easy to do that. Much of Seattle's housing stock is more than 50 years old, especially that part of it that rents to the lower end. The costs of the repairs will be high, and those rents are going to go up.

You know that $500 mother in law that you're in, getting that great deal? Be prepared for that rent to double in the relatively near future. It's not covered by the law, but its competition is. And then there are all the new tax levies. "Families and Education." The new seawall. And plenty more. Renters vote for this stuff without ever stopping to remember that property taxes get passed right on through.

Now: I'm not a Republican, and I'm not a landlord. I'm a homeowner who was once a renter, and who briefly was a landlord. I have no direct interest in any of this stuff. Just a citizen who looks, smiles, and shakes his head at the delusions of the "progressives" here who really and truly don't see that what manipulated tools they are.

This law has nothing to do with safety. It is all about cutting out competition for the big landlords, and the developers who want to put up apartments everywhere. They city loves it, because the taxes on a new development are much higher. So is the rent, but do you really think McGinn or Burgess or Conlin or Sally Clark or Nick Licata ever once gave a rat's ass about that? Do you really? If you do, then you are a victim's victim.

So, enjoy the inspections, renters. You'll pay, and then you'll pay again.
35
Oh, and did any of you notice that the sewer rates are going to rise by 22%, and electricity by 30%? Garbage is on its way up, one way or another. Renters, all of this is going to hit you. And God help you if you have a car, because the city is aiming straight at your wallet. Hmm. Suddenly, that barista gig ain't looking so hot. Has anyone noticed that there aren't as many artists in Seattle these days?
36
It is all about cutting out competition for the big landlords,


I know from experience that one of the worst slumlords in this city is Cornell & Associates. Fuck off.
37
Oh, and did any of you notice that the sewer rates are going to rise by 22%, and electricity by 30%? Garbage is on its way up, one way or another. Renters, all of this is going to hit you. And God help you if you have a car, because the city is aiming straight at your wallet. Hmm. Suddenly, that barista gig ain't looking so hot. Has anyone noticed that there aren't as many artists in Seattle these days?
38
A building inspector is paid to find violations, and the code makes it easy to do that.


I guess you missed the part where building owners can hire their own inspectors.
39
I know from experience that one of the worst slumlords in this city is Cornell & Associates.

So what?
40
@39,

That company is a huge landlord in this city. Your argument is invalid.
41
I guess you missed the part where building owners can hire their own inspectors.

Who will be subject to city regulation, and liability if they miss anything. But hey, you want higher rents for the little people? Have at it. How very "progressive" of you.
42
But wait! When the rents go up, and we get more homelessness, then we'll have another affordable housing levy. Which the "progressive" sheep here will pass. And which will raise property taxes, which will be passed through in rents. Gee, funny how that math thing works.

But not to worry. The proles will have apodments!
43
@36

my ex and I managed a building of theirs years back and I can say this is a true statement.
44
That company is a huge landlord in this city. Your argument is invalid.

They won't be touched by this new law. Just wait. You'll see.
45
If Cornell & Associates is as big as you say they are, they've got enough lawyers. And if I'm wrong, and they are "touched," they'll just raise their rents. One way or another, you, the renters, are going to pay and pay and pay.
46
@44,

I guess if you're right, you can come back in several years (the law doesn't take effect until 2014, just FYI) and make us eat crow. But I hope you'll forgive me if I don't take your message of doom and destruction seriously.
47
@44,

I should add, especially when your message of doom and gloom is couched in so much reactionary anti-tax bullshit. The seawall? Really? Fuck off.
48
Mister G, I won't presume to speak for the water department (water and electricity don't mix) but you need to study up on your 30% electricity rate increase claim.

The theoretical 30% is over the course of six years, but if you look at the proposal, the lower block residential (which most apartments stay well within) actually goes down a bit, at least for the first few years. It's the homeowners and home renter who will take a hit.

Additionally, that theoretical barista which you speak of may very well qualify for the 60% discounted electrical rate. A household of theoretical baristas might as well. The income requirements are not onerous.

There are, I believe, similar programs for water/sewer. But you will have to talk to them directly: 684-3000

49
#46, there'll be no need to laugh. You'll be in your apodment eating scraps from Trader Joe's, and I'll be living high on the hill, ignoring you. But you'll be comforted to know that your rent is what it is because the "progressives" protected you from mold that you could've just cleaned yourself with some bleach and a wire brush. Hope it's worthwhile to you.
50
The theoretical 30% is over the course of six years, but if you look at the proposal, the lower block residential (which most apartments stay well within) actually goes down a bit, at least for the first few years.

"For the first few years." Hey, want to know why you'll be so screwed on that electric bill after "the first few years?" Because Seattle is now required to buy wind power that it doesn't need. You see, those dams that have been here forever are now classified as if they are coal plants. But hey, you can afford it, barista!
51
Again, Mr. G. You need to read up on what you are talking about.

The VOTER PASSED initiative (I-977?) does say that utilities need to add renewable energy to their portfolio, but the wind power SCL purchases is not "unneeded": City Light just buys it as needed to meet demand - just as they do any other power source.

And while you are right that hydro is not considered renewable under the terms of that initiative, it is not classified the same as coal power, which is actively being phased out in Washington State (again, because of that pesky democratic process)

Finally, I don't know what the effect on the lower residential block is for the whole term of the rate increase. It could be that it always stays low. I frankly didn't bother to look that far out. But facts are things that just make you all tense and nervous when you are trying to make some sort of inane point, aren't they?
52
"Frankly, I don't bother to look that far out."

Trust me, your betters at city hall do. They just have a 30-year wet kiss to a billionaire from California, and they are busy doing the same thing for every real estate shark with the suitcase full of cash.

And yeah, you're right. The standard of living for the worker bees here is truly "some sort of inane point."
53
"And yeah, you're right. The standard of living for the worker bees here is truly 'some sort of inane point.' "

Only when you attempt to make it, dear.....
54
Love them apodments. 150 sq ft for $600. That's your future, except in the future they'll rent for a grand. Congrats, fools!
55
So i'm confused about the nay-sayers' argument here.

Assume a 20-unit building gets 3 units inspected (15% * 20, rounded up) every 10 years, at a rate of (worst case mentioned) $500 per inspection. If you amortize that cost over 20 units and 120 months you're looking at a per-month, per-apartment cost of about 63 cents. On the other end of the scale, a single family home rented out would see an increase of about $4.17 per month over the same, 120 month period for a single $500 inspection. If you want to add in a hour or three of labor you're still looking at a relatively negligible increase against the base rent. There may be other costs associated with registration, but that $12/mo average increase is looking pretty reasonable an estimate.

The only way to raise these costs is if there are violations that are found in the code that require significant costs to resolve. But that's the whole point of the law -- to ensure property owners are not endangering their tenants by allowing their standards of their property to lapse since their purchase. If anything it ensures that buildings are maintained at code fairly consistently throughout their lifespan, as opposed to just periodically as they're sold from entity to entity.

How is this not a good thing?
56
See also: "Renters Have Privacy and Property Rights Too," by Ilya Shapiro, Cato @ Liberty blog, October 1, 2012, http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/renters-h…

Shapiro writes:

A person’s home is his castle and thus affords certain protections and immunities — including the right to exclude unwanted visitors — that apply whether you own or rent.

Unfortunately, ordinances authorizing general administrative searches of rental properties have been increasingly adopted by local authorities with little protection for privacy interests. These inspections reach the whole of the buildings and all of the activity that occurs within, opening up every aspect of people’s lives to the government: political and religious affiliations, intimate relationships, and even all those Justin Bieber posters and Fifty Shades of Gray books you hide when people come over.
57
White Elephant:

Anybody who doesn't have a plan to get out of the scam that is paying rent - a tiny home, a boat, a fucking tent, anything - by the time they're twenty-five is an idiot. A $750 per month apartment/room/whatever costs nine-fucking-thousand dollars a year. Also known as 'enough to pay off a small house free-and-clear in fifteen years'.

Nine thousand dollars a year. If you make as much as I do, and as much as a lot of renters do, that's, like, half or a third of your whole yearly income (which you gave up most of a year of your life to get). Seriously, who can afford to rent in the first place?
58
$750 a month can pay off a house in 15 years? In what universe? One that doesn't charge interest and where utilities, maintenance and residual costs are free and there's no property taxes?
59
Did the council members who recused themselves do so because they are landlords or because they are renters?
60
A $750 per month apartment/room/whatever costs nine-fucking-thousand dollars a year. Also known as 'enough to pay off a small house free-and-clear in fifteen years'.

As I write, the 15-year mortgage rate is 2.75%. Including taxes and insurance, $750 a month will get you a mortgage of about $90,000. Which gets you into trailer territory, where the interest rates are much higher (welcome to Poverty Inc., America's most lucrative industry). Now your rate will be 7.2%, which means you can buy a $70,000 trailer.

In both cases, you'd better have perfect credit, and another 11%-12% for fees and downpayment. For the house, any downpayment less than 20% will require you to pay extra for mortgage insurance. Bottom line: You're not anywhere close to that small house in Seattle for $750 a month.
61
Do you really want another government official going thru your home? lets open up your home and car for health and morals inspection , any roaches in the ashtrays, unmarried fornicators ,any porno (especially gay) ,unlicenesed pets. recycles in the trash, untaxed liquor, cigs and fireworks from the indian stores, without probable cause i am sure big bro can think of more cival infractions, with penalty of course, and the tenant gets to pay more just like higher property taxes, someone has to pay.
62
I've noticed that the young people in Seattle definitely don't understand that any increase passes directly to them, even if it's property tax, inspection fees, whatever... YOU pay them as renters.

How come the average age in Seattle has stayed the same for 20 years?
Because when you grow up, you move away!
64
This above posting is a very passive aggressive in nature. It also releases private information and abuses this conversation. A tenant should take responsibility of his/her negligence. If knowing wood floor will be ruined if sitting in water, you still poor water on it, you abuses. Sound like that is what you did- wanting to perform a function on an appliance knowing you already broke it.