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Rental Landscape Change: More Restrictions for Landlords

Two years ago, a routine resolution passed the Seattle City Council:

The City Council finds that the establishment of a Residential Rental Business License and Inspection Program is necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of tenants by encouraging the proper maintenance of rental housing, by identifying and requiring correction of substandard housing conditions, and by preventing conditions of deterioration and blight that could adversely impact the quality of life in the City of Seattle. Now, we're not saying whose rental property was blighted, and there's no mention of that apartment building whose owners refused to allow tenants to raise money for marriage equality. But there are something like 42,000 rental properties in Seattle, everything from single-famly rental houses to humongous apartment buildings. And they can't all be four-star.

The proper maintenance of rental housing, the resolution explains, requires identifying and correcting substandard housing conditions to prevent "deterioration and blight that could adversely impact the quality of life in the City of Seattle."

Following the resolution to create the License and Inspection Program, the various "stakeholders" (read landlords, bureaucrats and tenants' rights organizations) have come up with a draft plan that would take effect in 2014: rental properties must be registered with the city, the city sets up a list of certified inspectors, and ten percent of all rental properties get an inspection every year.

The Tenants Union of Washington sees the proposed legislation as a win, even if landlords aren't thrilled. But Councilman Nick Licata is happy that the Council has agreed on an approach to making rental housing safer.

-- Ronald Holden

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