He spent years cleaning up a West Seattle greenspace. Now he’s asking for help with a different kind of cleanup

A West Seattle man who has given to the community is now hoping he can get a helping hand.

What Scott Dolfay is dealing with is a side effect of the pandemic. In short, he was unable to evict renters who he says trashed the house he was renting to them, not only falling into arrears on rent, but refusing him access for inspection. But there’s more to the story than “aggrieved landlord.” And he’s not asking for money – he’s asking for cleanup help this weekend.

His own previous community work, in fact, involved a different kind of cleanup. We reported here four years ago on Dolfay’s ongoing work at Seola Pond, organizing restoration of a site that he described as a “de-facto community park.” With little fanfare, he managed to corral volunteer help – including local students – and donated material,

Now he’s hoping some neighbors will lend a hand at his former rental house in north Arbor Heights. Here’s what he sent us:

Our family’s only major investment, a small house first bought in 1977, was intended to support our only child, Taichi, an adopted Down syndrome young man.

As aging parents we have no extended family to care for him when we are no longer able to. Recent history has demonstrated that if we rely solely on the government to care for him he may well end up abused or worse.

Due to the unconstitutional eviction moratorium and our tenants’ abuse of it, the hope of keeping the house to fund his special needs trust is no longer an option. After cleaning up the mountain of trash, we will sell “as is.”. We received some federal compensation but nothing from the city or state (the mayor’s directive didn’t allow for even the sale of property while occupied). Yet we still have to pay property tax and utilities. Unable to evict while observing the property’s destruction, the federal payment didn’t come close to covering our losses. Please consider helping with cleaning up the aftermath.

Cleanup days: Saturday (18th) & Sunday (19th)

We will provide a limited number of N95 masks along with light-duty gloves and bottled water.

Things to bring if you can (not required):
Hand truck – wheelbarrow – weed whacker – impact driver (to remove many screws).

The “destruction,” he says, includes a skateboarding facility the tenant built in the back yard, mostly dismantled but “a lot of trash remains.”

Dolfay says that prior to this, he has been trying to get help from city officials for many months. (He also notes that he is a party in the Rental Housing Association‘s lawsuit over eviction restrictions.) He says he was asked to offer suggestions, so he did: Waive a year of property tax, pay for a year of insurance, waive the unpaid utilities for which he says he’s been targeted for collection, supply a city crew to help with cleanup. None of that happened. Eventually, he says, sometime this spring, the tenants just “abandoned the place” and he regained control of the property this summer. Now he’s proceeding with plans to sell. Anyone who can help with the cleanup can reach him at satomiscott (at) q.com.

40 Replies to "He spent years cleaning up a West Seattle greenspace. Now he's asking for help with a different kind of cleanup"

  • flimflam September 17, 2021 (11:26 am)

    This is awful and one of the unintended yet not unexpected consequences of the eviction moratorium. The way small landlords have been vilified by people (heck, even by the city council) is terrible. I really feel for this family and wish them the best.i wonder what Herbold and Gonzales have to say about this.

    • Roms September 17, 2021 (7:26 pm)

      Yup. Let’s all vote Lorena González and keep on having blindsided career politicians keep on destroying the lifeline of normal people. Or not…

  • Jenben September 17, 2021 (12:26 pm)

    Who would want to be a rental owner in this climate?! Ugh 

    • Jay September 17, 2021 (1:30 pm)

      Being a small rental owner probably sucks all around, but whoever or whatever entity is hidden behind the shell corporation that owns my large apartment building is raking in $$$.

  • PG September 17, 2021 (12:45 pm)

    I’m so sorry – is this the house near the 97th street entrance to the Fauntleroy park?

  • Scott Dolfay September 17, 2021 (1:02 pm)

     Yes, the address is 3936 SW 97th St.    The start time is 10:00am. Before things really got bad King 5 news interviewed me:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-z924fnXK4

  • K September 17, 2021 (1:33 pm)

    Just sell it and put the proceeds into an interest bearing account instead

    • PSPS September 17, 2021 (3:44 pm)

      The property will continue to appreciate in value much faster than an “interest bearing account.”  Even long bonds are yielding only 1.8%. Anything shorter-term than that is substantially lower, sometimes by a factor of 100 (yes, I’ve seen 0.01% quoted on some instruments!) On the other hand, Case-Shiller shows 25% increase in Seattle property values in the last 12 months.

  • Wseattlite September 17, 2021 (1:36 pm)

    Scott, I find it disturbing that you became a victim as a result of other’s decisions. Thank you for all of your community involvement over the years. If I can, I will be there to help out. Are there any tools we can bring to assist in the cleanup?

    • Scott Dolfay September 17, 2021 (5:46 pm)

      Thank you, it looks like a rainy day.  The main tool required would be an impact driver to remove screws. The tenant decided his full time job would be screwing scrap wood all over the place.  

  • Kram September 17, 2021 (2:05 pm)

    This is exactly the point that landlord associations have been trying to make. This makes for less rentals as small landlords get fed up or simply can’t afford to be landlords anymore, and sell. The potential buyers are nearly certain to not be renters. One less single family home available for rent. Typically homes like this with a landlord that only has one or two investment properties are easier to get into than apartments or homes owned by large corporations. Making them in a sense more affordable and often have perks other rentals don’t. I realize most people don’t care about landlords but politically driven laws like the no eviction law do come with real consequences that negatively effect the people they are supposed to protect. 

    • Scott Dolfay September 17, 2021 (6:28 pm)

      This is exactly the point I was making in the King 5 news
      report I mentioned above. BTW, the reporter that interviewed me was aware of
      our son and the purpose of the house. That didn’t make it into the report.

      People like Ksharma Sawant bemoan corporations yet create
      policies whereby only corporations can survive.  I’m a contractor, I know many small landlords;
      almost all have sold, leave space empty, or are waiting until their good tenant
      moves out before they sell.

      Our house was well remodeled. It has a mini-split heat pump,
      solar tubes, lots of storage, large composite deck and right before they moved
      in was completely re-piped. Small at 710 sq. ft. (not counting storage) but was
      only $1,650 a month.

      Anyway many politicians (and voters) don’t believe in privately
      owned rentals along with the view that housing is a right. That combination
      leaves you with socialized public housing. Get ready for a massive push for it.
      Our family is just one of those proverbial “eggs” you have to break to make the
      socialist omelet.  


  • Also John September 17, 2021 (5:31 pm)

    A friend of mine has three rental homes.  She has worked hard and long to achieve them.  Two renters immediately stopped paying when it was announced they couldn’t be kicked out.  My friends is losing her ‘bottom’ financially.                   I have another friend in Tacoma with a rental.  The same thing happened to her.  The renter immediately stopped paying.  The renter still had her income.  This friend ended up selling the house.  She was losing money and a lawyer told her the renter must leave if she sold it…..so she did.          I feel extremely fortunate that my renter has been paying their rent.  I’m nervous if they leave.  I’m nervous to get new renters who immediately stick their tongues out and say ‘we’re not paying’ because we don’t have to.

    • Econ 101 September 17, 2021 (8:05 pm)

      By owning a rental you reduce supply which raises prices. This puts home ownership out of the reach of people who could otherwise afford it. Rent follows housing prices, so rents go up too. Is it really beneficial to society for one person to own three houses? If fewer people owned rental properties then housing prices would be lower and more people could own primary residences. I’d love to see the city do more to make owning a rental impractical.

      • bh September 17, 2021 (10:42 pm)

        You are assuming here that absolutely everybody would be able to buy,  or would be willing or interested in buying, wanting to stay in one location long enough for it to make sense,     and willing and able to handle maintenance and upkeep which are not insignificant for a single family home.But at least in the SFR realm with rules like Seattle keeps enacting  we are likely to keep moving towards your ideal,    so it will be interesting to see how well it works out.

      • Scott Dolfay September 18, 2021 (12:55 am)

        As for ECON 101 you are
        espousing a zero sum game view of economics which doesn’t hold up under
        objective scrutiny. But what do I know I only  went to trade school. 

      • Adult September 18, 2021 (8:33 am)

        Nice Reddit type reasoning Econ101. Your supply and demand reasoning does not stand up to actual scrutiny. Home prices do not go down in cities as a result of small rental owners selling property to occupant buyers. Home prices drop due to large scale issues such as enormous economic collapse or when large industry collapses or abandons a city. With the exception of the latter in places like Rochester, New York, Detroit, etc., where there are not other industries or companies to fill the void, these downturns are short-lived and only people with strong financial foundation can take advantage.What can make a difference to make more affordable housing in rising markets? Build bridges, tunnels and rail to the Islands and Olympic Penninsula, which is what opened the East Bay in No. Cal and Brooklyn and Long Island. Build better rail to open up existing space on this side of the Sound. Change zoning to allow more multi-use housing. Finally, stop trying to sell people who don’t make the necessary income that they should be able to buy a home in areas where it isn’t going to be possible. This lie comes from provincial thinking in which people can’t get past the idea that late 80’s and early 90’s Seattle can be retrievable. 

      • Jim September 19, 2021 (8:00 am)

        You might find it useful to actually take an Econ 101 class. 

    • Scott Dolfay September 18, 2021 (12:48 am)

      Also John

      At least your friend had the option to sell.
      Thanks to Jenny Durkan’s ‘compassionate’ edict no Seattle landlord had that
      option. Sort of an extension of her “summer of love” theory. As a contractor I
      know many small landlords. With a few exceptions they have already sold,
      leaving the rental space empty or waiting until their good tenant moves out
      then will sell. 

  • west seattle 60 years September 17, 2021 (6:49 pm)

     I was a small landlord owner in Seattle for 20 plus years and saw the writing on the wall as far as this city is concerned. I fixed up and sold my rental property several years ago to a nice family. I smile every time I drive by it which is almost daily. Landlords with less than two rental properties should have been treated the same way small businesses were during the pandemic, it is so hard to try and pay a mortgage and utilities and insurance while unable to collect any rent to cover these items. I am so sorry that you are all dealing with this. I have walked in your shoes as far as properties being destroyed by tenants all while they are protected.  I hope you sell the property for a great amount of money that will allow you to support your disabled son in the fashion your family wishes.  We never know why someone owns a property and what the proceeds are intended to do……I am dealing with the same situation in King County…..Best to you and your family

  • D September 17, 2021 (10:01 pm)

    Sorry you’ve had to go through that Scott. As a landlord of one property and as someone who’s health has deteriorated to the point I can barely keep up with my rental property; I can’t imagine how awful that must be to have your rental property destroyed and renters not paying rent, all the while having no protection against that.  Council member Sawants’ negative rhetoric towards landlords has stressed me out vilifying us as the bad guys when i’m barely scraping by.  Sending you well wishes. 

  • wssz September 18, 2021 (1:01 am)

    Scott, can we start a Go Fund Me page for you to start to recoup some of your expenses?

  • wssz September 18, 2021 (1:17 am)

    My housemate Kimberly rented that house from Scott for several years. She loved living there and moved only because the economy fell apart. That was more than eight years ago.

    Scott was an ideal landlord, always making sure his rental house was in impeccable condition.  

    Because of Kimberly’s respect for Scott’s ethics and the quality of his work, I hired him to do some projects on my home. He was fantastic to work with. 

    The renters/squatters who did this to his property should not be allowed to get away with this. It’s astounding that our elected officials don’t recognize the profound damage they are doing to  individual landlords who had the foresight to buy something that would see them through their retirement years. The vilification of all landlords by Councilmember Sawant (and NO pushback from the other councilmembers) will shrink the Seattle rental market — who in their right mind would want to be a small landlord here in Seattle now.  

  • JoAnn Copperud September 18, 2021 (3:51 am)

    I am also guessing that you will have to pay federalcapital gains in the proceeds plus the new WA capital gains of 7% if you sell after Jan 1. We just invested proceeds from a sale in a 1031 exchange which allowed us to not have to pay the capital gains. We didn’t want to manage property anymore so we invested in what is called a Delaware Statuary Trust which are institutional grade properties (Commerical , retail, multifamily, etc) where our $$ are pooled with other investors. We get a monthly dividend of 6%. The beauty of this type of investment is your son can inherit it and still not pay the taxes. It’s worth investigating! Google Delaware Statues Trust. There are about 40 companies nationally that specialize in these offerings including one in Mercer Island . But to avoid paying the cap gains you MUST identify the new investment BEFORE you sell. The sale proceeds go into escrow (not to you directly) and THEN into the new investment. Can save you 32% in cap gains taxes. 

    • Cindy Craig September 18, 2021 (10:13 am)

      I believe the new Washington State capital gains tax on the sale of long term assets exempts the sale of ‘real property.’https://dor.wa.gov/taxes-rates/other-taxes/capital-gains-tax

  • Rara September 18, 2021 (6:50 am)

    I’m a gal so I probably wouldn’t be much help with the power tools but what about the inside of the home? 

    • Ird September 18, 2021 (5:23 pm)

      Being a “gal” doesn’t mean you aren’t good with power tools. You’re not good with power tools because you choose not to be. 

  • Mj September 18, 2021 (9:33 am)

    So freaking frustrating how the City has infringed into private contracts, aka rental agreements, and the adverse effect that was raised early on about this policy is clearly aparent now.  It’s time to hold the City Council and Mayor responsible for this abuse of their legislative authority.

  • PP September 18, 2021 (9:59 am)

    I don’t want to read through all the comments but you have a story that a go fund me would respond to.  Lean it up fix it up and better luck next time. 

  • Cindy Craig September 18, 2021 (11:43 am)

    JoAnn, I believe the new Washington State capital gains tax on the sale of long term assets exempts the sale of ‘real property.’https://dor.wa.gov/taxes-rates/other-taxes/capital-gains-tax

  • Nelson Muntz September 18, 2021 (12:10 pm)

    I had a tenant trash my rental.  Broken windows, kicked in doors and many holes in the walls.  Luckily I had Landlord insurance.  Paid for most of the repairs.  

    • alki_2008 September 18, 2021 (7:35 pm)

      And how were your premiums upon your next renewal of that policy?

      • Nelson Muntz September 20, 2021 (7:19 am)

        dont remember, it is a business expense anyway.  add it to the rent.   sold the property a year later 

  • Eric September 18, 2021 (3:38 pm)

    Blame Sawant, Herbold, Gonzales, and Inslee.  They completely ignored an exhaustive UW study warning of the consequences. These self-serving knuckleheads act like their policies are going help tenants. They’re not.   They’ve made it so difficult for a landlord to manage a rental it is no longer worth the risk.  The result will be skyrocketing rents, no availability, and your next  landlord will be a corporation.  My landlord says I’m his last tenant, he’s quitting.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident September 18, 2021 (5:16 pm)

    The HUGE mistake with the “Rental Assistance” funding was that they gave the money to the tenants. They should have required copies of the lease/rental agreement, along with employment status, to prove you were eligible for the program. The program then should have paid the Landlords, instead of sending the money to the tenants, the majority of who used the money for everything else, but the rent.

    As for the landlord/rental niche of business; the City Council members of Seattle, and many of the cities in the surrounding area, FIRMLY believe in the “No one should own more than one home, before EVERYONE owns one home.” mantra.

  • SEADOG September 18, 2021 (6:52 pm)

    Any tenant who goes radio silent, violates their lease, or doesn’t apply for aid should NOT be protected from eviction.  The mayor, governor, and city council likes to believe this isn’t happening, but it is. Lisa Herbold should be ashamed of herself.  The eviction moratorium is scheduled to end on Sept. 30th, and it should NOT be extended. There are six months of additional protection for non-payment after that which is sufficient to get any aid out for cooperating/deserving tenants. Landlords should be able to evict tenants who are clearly abusing the system!

  • Scott Dolfay September 20, 2021 (12:16 pm)


    Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart.

    At least 20 volunteers came Saturday. It was amazing! There
    was so much trash. We started at 10:00 am with a 30 cubic yard dumpster filled
    to the top by 2:00 pm without a break (right before a downpour).

    Not only trash removal but weed whacking and pruning. Two volunteers
    spent over 2 hours removing a structure in a large cedar tree.  Two others spent a similar amount of time
    cleaning a very nasty refrigerator.  

    There still is more trash so I’m ordering a 15 cubic yard
    dumpster to be delivered Tuesday or Wednesday. Likely another request for help will
    be made for this coming Saturday (25th). I asked that all volunteers leave
    their mailing address so that our son Taichi can send thank you cards. 

    • wssz September 22, 2021 (4:21 am)

      Scott, it’s phenomenal that people showed up and really pitched in to help. Thanks for the update. I hope the work parties help get your rental house back to being a place that people enjoy living. 

      I’m not able to help with the cleanup but would like to contribute to a Go Fund Me campaign to help offset the financial burden you’re now faced as a result of the squatters’ nonpayment and trashing your rental and property. It could really help your family, including possibly giving Taichi some future financial security. It could certainly ease your mind to not have to worry about this. 

      I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to help by contributing to a fund for your family. 

  • MollyJ September 20, 2021 (2:02 pm)

    I am so sorry that happened to you. I wanted to suggest you may want to get connected with Life Enrichment Options in Issaquah and see if you can get your son on their wait list for future housing. They were started by parents afraid of not being there for their adult children with ID/DD. The houses are donated and about 3-5 people with ID/DD live together and use their SS to contribute to household expenses. A chaperone also lives in the house with them. I am sure there is a wait list but it may be an option to look into. It is a pretty upbeat organization that respects the autonomy of residents. I also think you should consider a Go Fund Me. 

  • Sillygoose September 21, 2021 (2:25 pm)

    I so wanted to help with this cleanup but had a commitment but I knew this community would show up for you.  God Bless you and your lovely family.  

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