@ CITY HALL: Council passes renter-protection ordinance

At City Hall this afternoon, councilmembers voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that “prohibits rent increases on properties with unsafe housing-code violations,” as described by the announcement from the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who proposed it last year with then-Councilmember Nick Licata. All the documents related to the ordinance are here. From the slide deck, here’s how it works:

• Landlord provides written notice of a rent increase

• Tenant must respond in writing within ten days and describe defective conditions

• Landlord can cure the problem any time before rent increase is set to take effect.

• Tenant or Landlord may call SDCI to request inspection any time before effective date of rent increase

• If SDCI inspects and finds RRIO checklist failures, then rent increase delayed until defective condition is remedied

It will take effect 30 days after Mayor Murray signs it.

14 Replies to "@ CITY HALL: Council passes renter-protection ordinance"

  • 4thGenWestSide June 6, 2016 (6:34 pm)

    Cue the immediate rent increases for the current month to month tenants, before the Mayor signs off on the new bill.  Ultimately may cost tenants more in the short term.  But I do believe that these slum lords need to be held accountable.  

    • Sunuva June 7, 2016 (7:09 am)

      This is sadly probably true for certain types of landlords. They will see the writing on the wall and realize that if they want to get more out of their “investment” they need to immediately raise the rents. I was an accidental landlord for a few years as I was trapped under water on my mortgage during the housing crisis. I thought less of my rental as an investment and was very aware of the fact that my student tenants were very dependent on stable rent prices to live their lives and finish school. I never would have raised rents on them unless it was truly necessary, and it would’ve still been a very tough decision and I would’ve given them plenty of notice. There are however many very different types of landlords out there.

      Also, as history shows, the credit card companies did something similar a few years ago. They hurriedly raised interest rates on millions of people before the Credit Card Act of 2009 took place. Every single one of my credit cards did it, even though I’d never missed a payment, went over limit, or anything else but simply carry a balance.

  • JoB June 6, 2016 (7:51 pm)

    Does this apply to rental house as well as apartments.. or is it like most of Seattle’s landlord tenant laws that ignore substandard housing as long as it is a single family structure?

    • WSB June 6, 2016 (7:58 pm)

      It is based on the RRIO, which says ALL rental property – I linked the info page for that in the story – it’s here:

      http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/codesrules/licensingregistration/RRIO/aboutrrio/

      Excerpt from yet another page that one links to:

      The Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance requires landlords to register all rental housing units in Seattle, from single-family houses to large apartment buildings.
      Exceptions to the registration requirement include commercial lodging, state-licensed facilities such as adult family homes, and housing owned by government groups or by housing authorities such as Seattle Housing Authority. See the ordinance for more detail.
      Landlords must register their properties according to the following schedule:
      All properties with 10 or more units should have registered by September 30, 2014. If you own one of these properties and have not yet registered, you will be assessed a $20 late fee and you may be subject to additional penalties and fees.
      All properties with 5 to 9 rental housing units must be registered by March 31, 2015.
      All properties with 1 to 4 rental housing units will be registered from 2015 to 2016. We will base specific deadlines for these properties on the ZIP code where the property is located.

  • BD June 6, 2016 (8:35 pm)

    Wow, I can’t imagine there is a big problem with substandard housing, there already are city rules combating the issue.  It seems this will increase compliance costs for landlords, and thus rents, with little upside in terms of rental housing safety or quality. 

  • LivesInWS June 6, 2016 (8:53 pm)

    Not enough. We need sensible rent control for all rentals. 

    • LarryB June 7, 2016 (9:58 am)

      Rent control is a disaster. I lived in NYC when landlords set fire to their buildings because they were losing money and the insurance was a better deal. I also lived in SF and personally experiences harassment from a landlord who wanted me out so he could reset to market rates. Rent control sounds appealing, but isn’t really a solution for anyone. What we need is more housing, especially more family-sized rental units.

  • Kevin June 6, 2016 (9:13 pm)

    Actually, it was amended in committee so that the tenant has up until the day the rent increase goes into effect to file a complaint with SDCI — not just 10 days. It was a matter of some debate; everyone agreed that 10 days was clearly not enough. Burgess suggested 15 days, because he wanted to create incentives to get the code violations fixed as soon as possible Sawant wanted to give the tenants as much time as possible to learn about their rights while dealing with all the other crap they deal with in their daily lives. Sawant won over the other Council members to her view, and Burgess voted to support the amended ordinance, so everyone left happy.  Unfortunately, some of Sawant’s followers have been saying that Burgess was against the bill; nothing could be farther than the truth.

    And by the way, if your apartment is not up to code and the landlord isn’t fixing it, you can call the SDCI hotline and they will send an inspector out; they have the authority to  force compliance, within 48 hours for life-safety issues like no heat, electricity or running water. And by law you have the right to a refund of rent for the time that your apartment doesn’t meet code.

    • WSB June 6, 2016 (9:51 pm)

      Thanks. Usually the news releases are very detailed but the one sent on behalf of CM Sawant was just a few paragraphs. Nonetheless, while we don’t make note of every new law passed, this seemed worth a mention.

      • joe puckett June 7, 2016 (9:07 pm)

        I am glad to see that someone advised that the legislation had been amended.  A tenant will have until the effective date of the proposed rent increase to tell the landlord in writing that there are repair issues in the rental property that make it unsafe.  

  • Glad to Escape That Mess June 6, 2016 (10:37 pm)

    This is great news!
    I had the unpleasant experience of renting a single-family home in Arbor Heights that only had working heat in one bedroom.  Then hearing the property management company and owner claim that one room counts as providing heat and that they weren’t obligated to heat the other 1500 sf.  of the house.  The DPD was helpful in forcing the owner to rectify that problem, but not the sketchy wiring, the rats, and the actual holes in the floor that lead to nothing but the great outdoors.  They tried to raise the rent and I moved the second my lease was up.  Would be great to have had more tools to force changes rather than move 11 months after thinking I was going to be settling down for a while.

    Good landlords who are already in compliance have nothing to worry about.  Unfortunately there are a lot of crummy landlords refusing to fix pretty big problems.  Those problems aren’t always apparent from the outside of the house, but you’d be surprised at some of the things tenants just deal with when they feel stuck in a place.

  • Diane June 7, 2016 (1:34 am)

    another very important note about today’s city council meeting; our very own D-1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold was president pro tem, so she got to sign off on this new tenant protection law as Chair of CC; it was a thrill to watcher her say “the bill is passed and the chair will sign it”

  • Jay Koster June 7, 2016 (8:56 am)

    Good! I’m glad to see this has passed. As a landlord, I believe that we need to hold the lowest-quality providers to a livable standard.    

  • vote them out June 7, 2016 (9:48 am)

    I’m sick of economically illiterate politicians. 

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