Thursday, June 3, 2010
If you are a renter and find yourself questioning how safe your unit is, or whether or not your landlord even cares, you’ll be happy to hear about the latest vote concerning this issue. Last week, the Seattle City Council voted “yes” to set up a city-conducted inspection system to ensure substandard rental unit safety and it’s adherence to building codes. Building codes, some may be wondering, are specialized codes that set standards for construction methods and the materials used. These can include fire codes, electrical codes and plumbing codes. Many, not to say all, renters aren’t aware of their building’s codes or have the means to find another residence if their building is not up to par. This is part of the reason why the city is implementing the program. There are over 100,000 units in Seattle, 50% of which are actually rented. Currently, unit inspection is allowable only if a tenant or owner gives permission. This new rule, which most likely won’t begin until 2012, orders mandatory inspections under which every unit in the city could be inspected, if decided. Of course, Seattle will work to improve its current system before requiring inspections, specifically for the fact that the new program will require landlords to pay a license fee. Owners will be required to have a license which they receive after passing inspection. Many landlords oppose the new legislation because most buildings do follow code. Violations in rental housing are rare and landlords do not want to be penalized for the mistakes of others. The city also adopted two new resolutions-the first which hashes out the details including how often inspections should occur, which buildings should be inspected, and what warrants an inspection failure. The second resolution requires the City Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to report on the success or failure of using warrants to gain access to units which need inspection. There is hope that the new ordinance will make inspectors more pro-active to ensure the public’s health and safety. The current system to address unfit housing is complaint-based which hasn’t always been 100% effective. Maybe the future ordinance will be. There are both positives and negatives to the bill and both support and opposition. If you have a burning question or comment, or simply want to see what others have to say, you can check out replies or post your own at www.seattle.gov.