City inspectors will soon require an inspection of every apartment in a building on Rainier Avenue South where tenants live with rats, roaches, mold, mushrooms, and other blatant violations of city housing code.
The news comes three days after The Stranger reported on the conditions in the building and one of the tenants, Maria Angeles, testified before the Seattle City Council about the housing code violations at the property, where she lives with her husband and two children.
The building has been the subject of tenant complaints for at least two years, but passed the city's rental inspection program last year. After another complaint, city inspectors returned to the building last week.
In a letter today to landlord James Boyd Jr., Geoff Tallent, manager of the city's rental inspection program, wrote that inspectors found "visible evidence of cockroaches, holes in the walls, and a lack of heat" at the building.
"Furthermore," Tallent wrote, "these appear to be widespread and persistent problems at this property, as we found several similar housing violations over the last several years."
That's exactly why tenants and organizers who have visited the property have told the city it exposes several flaws in how Seattle keeps an eye on landlords.
Today, the city's rental inspection program gives landlords 60 days' notice of which apartments will undergo inspection. City policy also allows landlords to hire private inspectors instead of allowing city staff onto their properties. In cases with private inspectors, the city never knows that the inspector found violations of the housing code so long as the landlord makes the appropriate fixes.
The city council will soon consider some changes to the inspection program, but advocates are asking them to go further. Organizers at the nonprofit Washington CAN want the city to require inspections of every apartment in a building if significant violations are found in one or two apartments. They argue problems like roaches and burned-out outlets are unlikely to be limited to just one apartment.
Although the city has been aware of problems at this building in the past, it did not require an inspection of every unit until this week. The department has only used its authority to require an inspection of every unit in a building three times in three years.
In an interview today, Tallent would not elaborate on why the city had never before required an inspection of more apartments in this building. He repeated that the building passed an inspection last year.
Boyd will now have until August 15 to pass an inspection by city or private inspectors. Unless he fails to fix the violations, he will not face any city fines for allowing the property to exist in its current condition.