Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata Introduce "Carl Haglund Law" to Ban Rent Hikes at Uninhabitable Apartment Buildings


Something something showboating Trotskyite something telephone not a megaphone something something out of touch something is that building even in her district something something inflammatory language something something would have happened anyway something thank you Mayor Murray for your leadership something something Harrell/Banks/Burgess 4evah!
Haglund is in the documentary 'Fishermen's Terminal' where among other things he calls Commercial Fishermen zoo animals
I think this bill is a good idea generally, but the enforcement mechanism is too pro-tenant. There doesn't seem to be any way to prevent unscrupulous tenants (and you know they exist) from frivolously claiming there were, say, insects in the apartment, forcing the landlord to effectively prove his innocence to a board where the review might take weeks or months. Then, after he does so, the tenant could make another frivolous claim about, say, the heat, and start the whole process over again. Seems more fair to let the landlord raise the rent in the interim, but have treble damages if tenant complaints are borne out.
If a building is uninhabitable, why should a landlord be allowed to collect rent in the first place? People do understand what uninhabitable means, right?
as for #3 why do you assume a tenant is more of a liar than a landlord? why should landlord's be trusted more than tenants? your argument makes no sense, especially since these are buildings already deemed uninhabitable. as i said above, people do understand what uninhabitable means, right? it means people shouldn't be living in or paying rent for living in such a building in the first place!!!
@5, if the buildings have already been "deemed" uninhabitable, then you're right - there shouldn't be any rent paid at all. I took the article to be saying that in a building where there has been no such determination, a tenant could unilaterally block a rent increase with a frivolous claim. And as for trusting landlords more than tenants, I don't. I just think that it's much easier to punish abusive landlords on the back end than to do the same with abusive tenants.

Most of your concerns could probably be very easily addressed by bringing in a professional exterminator & a building code inspector - I imagine it wouldn't take either more than a few minutes poking around to prove or disprove any complaints cited by individual tenants. For one thing, if it's a multi-apartment building, insect infestations generally aren't going to be confined to a single unit; likewise problems with central heating systems. If the units use electrical baseboards, again it should be a relatively simple matter to determine whether they're in good working condition. And if it turns out the tenant WAS lying, then the landlord should have the right to charge-back any costs associated with the inspection, which itself would probably deter most anyone thinking they could make a quick buck by registering a complaint they know can't be substantiated.
This wont stop Carl from doing a rent increase now. As he's already said he's going to do. It puts the city planning and Inspection dept at a disadvantage. Because they have to get involved it there's a dispute between landlord and tenant. Like I said in another thread. Carl will fix what's wrong. Then raise the rents. And there will be nothing the city can do about it. He'll be able to price out those who are complaining. And it will be legal. Sawant and Licata be damned.
Letting a building get like this is unconscionable, but instead of prohibiting rent increases why doesn't the city just say the building is so shitty that the lack of up keep is as good as an eviction and force the owner to pay relocation assistance?
I have asked over and over how and why did the city pass the apartment on inspection in July? Why is no one looking into this! It seems pretty obvious their is corruption gong on. Isn't that really the biggest concern? How many times has this happened?
I'm assuming that a landlord who is renting out a moldy, rat infested apartment is not exactly doing all that great, so not letting them recoup some of the the costs of getting things to code pretty much leaves the building (and everyone involved) trapped in a closed loop through shitville. What happens if somebody buys an uninhabitable complex with the intent of improving, but the low rent makes that impossible? I see the potential for lots of unintended consequences with this proposal.

Here is a landlord's perspective. Sorry this post is so long. I own a two family house where I live in Maine - a small, modest one storey house built in 1960, quiet dead end street, decent middle class neighborhood of nearly all (small, older) single family homes, middle class town - a suburb of Portland. The house has 1960 insulation - in other words, extremely inadequate and no, I absolutely cannot afford to reinsulate the place. I looked into it numerous times. I live in one side of the house, and for ten years (from 2004 - 2014) I had tenants living on the other side, in order to make my mortgage payments (I'm single). I took enormous pride in keeping a nice, very clean property inside and out, at a reasonable rental rate for the area. I was told numerous times over the 10 years by prospective tenants coming to check the place out that it was by far the nicest 2 bedroom they had seen. In between tenants I always painted, cleaned and scrubbed, replaced carpeting, toilet seats, window shades, etc., so my new tenants always had a super clean, nice place. The last 6 years or so I was forced to pay my tenant's heat (oil) because of the fact that the overwhelming majority of my competition in the area pays their tenant's heat. I could not rent the place otherwise. At $3 and $4 a gallon and up, I ended up spending over $3k during a single winter to heat my tenants the last few years. $3k again does not include my own heat. Before I was forced to pay their heat, I always started my tenants off with a full tank of oil (275 gallons), with the agreement being that they would leave me with a full tank when they left . I again am a single person who makes a moderate middle class income which, during the past 3 years, substantially plummeted after I was laid off from my last job.

Almost without exception I was ripped off by my tenants, despite being careful about who I let in - since I have to live in the same structure and deal with noise and problems if there are going to be any. I did credit checks, interviewed them up front, read thru the lease up with them front so that they understood that the place was well kept and I needed them to respect that and not be a dick, etc., checked references, etc. It didn't matter. One tenant left the place is such a state I practically had to have it fumigated. The place never, ever had bugs, and now it had fruit flies due to the raw meat she left out on the kitchen counter for 3 straight days (I can explain how I know that for a fact, if anyone's interested), and the pileup of returnables in the closets which leaked (onto the hardwood floors), due to bits of food on the floors in every room and even stuff like dirty utensils I found UNDERNEATH the baseboard heating units in every room, the cat excrement on the kitchen floor, etc. She left behind what turned out to be rented furniture that was so badly stained, filthy and disgusting it was unusable. I was then called by the furniture rental company asking where she had fled to because she had stopped paying their rent. She damaged the 1 year old fridge to the point where it had to be replaced, damaged both the washer and the dryer - and had let all of her friends and family use the latter because it wasn't coin operated - so that both required repair in order to work again, somehow at some point completely emptied out the fire extinguisher I had left in the unit, leaving the canister behind for me to discard (begging the question, what the fuck happened? There were no signs of a fire anywhere nor had she ever reported one.) Believe it or not I'm skipping over a TON of the other stuff she did (such as breaking the kitchen door frame, leaving a leaking bottle of Drano sideways in the kitchen cabinet where food is stored, repeatedly damaging the storm doors, damaging the bulkhead, and of course, leaving me with a bone dry oil tank, etc) In the end she caused over $2k in damage to the place, and because I was stupid when she moved in and believed her sob story about being unable to leave the full (one month) deposit, I was only able to recoup $300 of that (ie the amount of her deposit). This was aside from a year and a half of nearly constant noise and problems caused by herself, her friends, boyfriend, parents, her 3 year old son, etc.

My last tenant was a single male, quiet, good professional job, drove a one year old BMW coupe ie was not at all hurting for cash at any point. Nice guy, age 30, very responsible, we had a great rapport, and he even watched out for the place when I was out of town. He seemed like a dream tenant. Only towards the last few months he lived here did I realize he had been keeping the (completely free, to him) heat at 75+ degrees 24/7 during winter, even when he would go away on business trips for a week at a time, despite him knowing that I was next to broke and truly struggling, despite him knowing I had had a substantial decrease in my salary, despite his knowledge that heating oil was over $4k a gallon much of that last winter (again, do the math - a 275 gallon tank X $4/gal = $1,100, and his tank needed to be filled about once every 5-6 weeks) and that in order to get thru the winter, I had to keep my own heat literally at 58 degrees all winter. Try living in an ice box for 6 months. I survived on multiple space heaters in every room and of course my electric bill shot up. At one point he began to complain that his allergies were being affected by what he assumed must be mold in the wall of his bedroom. Wanting to be a decent landlord, I had the wall opened up, and some minor bits of mold were found and dealt with. This was just under my $1k homeowner's deductible, so I had to pay the whole whack out of my own pocket, along with paying someone to seal up the drywall again. I was just going to leave it with a mismatched wall (color wise), since he was due to leave in a few months (to buy a brand new fancy high end condo) but he said he would paint it with allergen-free paint, and would agree to do so if I would pay him for the paint and for his "labor". I stupidly agreed to this. He painted exactly that one wall, so that it was really mismatched now (different shades of white really stand out) and charged me $60 + the cost of the overpriced "allergy-friendly" paint. Oh, and when the mold remediation took days to dry, he asked me to pay for a hotel stay for him for 3 days, even though his parents live in the same town in their own large house, and he visited them frequently. Again, this guy drives a late model BMW coupe. I drive a 2004 Corolla with 200k miles on it. I declined to pay for the hotel. It was right around this time that I discovered why his oil tank had been running out so extraordinarily quickly every winter (picture a gas tank on an SUV perpetually driving 100mph).

There are more stories about other tenants. In conclusion, sometimes the place getting bugs and being in disrepair is not the landlord's fault or doing. Sometimes we pay to repeatedly have things fixed which are then repeatedly broken again. Sometimes tenants lie thru their teeth, damage the shit out of our properties and then run for the hills and can't be found. Not all landlords are wealthy, sitting around counting their cash, or scumbags who won't keep the place up. In fact few of us are. I kept my place as immaculate as possible - cleaning and painting with my own hands because I can't afford to pay someone to do these things. I was always decent and fair with my tenants. (For example, with my second tenant, a single dad with a 3 year old and pretty much my only fully decent and honest tenant, I had, I dropped his rent $100 a month when he reluctantly confessed to having money problems due to a job change. He mowed my lawn for me after that - his decision, not mine.)

Bottom line: almost uniformly, for ten straight years, I was ripped off. And I know other landlords for whom my story is not at all unusual. It didn't pay to be decent and fair. It didn't help to offer a really decent place. It didn't matter if the rent was right at market rates, below market, or slightly above market. What I learned is that people do not care about what they don't own - which is why public housing projects becomes horrendous slums so quickly. (Not because of the landlord - the landlord isn't damaging his or her own property for fuck's sake - the tenants are). When people don't own the fridge they are using, or the door, or the window shade, or the rug, or the deck railing, they don't give a shit if they or their kid or boyfriend has broken or damaged it (again), and won't even report it to you. You'll find out by accident when they move.

Being a landlord is simply an impossible situation. It's a full time job on top of your full time job, and is SO not worth whatever piddling extra cash you get out of it. SO. For the record, I'm a democrat and on most issues a left winger, and I rented for many, many years before I was able to finally put enough away to put a deposit down on a house, so I've been on both sides of this. (I never damaged any places I rented and always left them clean.) I genuinely love the idea of a socialist woman on Seattle's city counsel, but demonizing landlords and painting us with a wide brush kinda sucks. Sawant should walk just a couple of inches in my shoes before she does so.


One more thing. I found out recently that, to boot, when I sell the house, I will be forced to pay capital gains tax ie 15% on 50% of whatever profit I make off the sale, because the tax code views this as my having run a profit making business. No single family homeowner is required to pay this extra tax, only multi-family owners are. Whatever "profits" I made on the rents I collected - and trust me, they were the bare fucking minimum compared with the costs I was forced to pour into repairs, upkeep, and especially heat, etc., are DAMN well earned.

Get the government involved see costs increase. Looking out for the little guy, or looking for another department of government regulation? There are already laws in place that make it difficult to evict a tenant. There are already laws in place to prevent a tenant from paying rent for a house or apartment that require fixes. But what we don't require by law is another department on top of the ones that we already have to regulate what is already regulated.
This would probably sink Cornell & Associates. They are one of the largest, semi-organized slumlords in the city. I think they raise the rent on every property every year by at least 50.00 like clockwork... or they base it on a per-rat status. If mice get into your basement, you get a pet-fee charge.
This doesn't require a new law. The City should enforce RCW 59.18.085(3). The landlord is acting all magnanimous, but the remedy is three month's rent and deposit and actual damages in cash in seven days. The Seattle law in place adds more rent to the state remedy. Use it, people!