If you live in the City of Seattle, a new ordinance passed on October 1, 2012 which will affect tenants in residential housing. The Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP) requires landlords to register their rental properties within Seattle so they can be periodically inspected. While the program will not be implemented until 2014, the Department of Planning and Development will be working with stakeholders throughout 2013 to work out details, such as establishing a fee structure and inspection standards. It is exciting to see Seattle take proactive measures to protect renters and make sure the available rental housing is safe and habitable!
The program will be introduced gradually over the next several years, with the goal of inspecting all rental properties – but not necessarily all units – over the next 10 years. Registration will begin with properties that have five or more units in January 2014, followed by inspections beginning in 2015. All other types of rental housing – single family, duplex, triplex, etc. – will need to register by December 31, 2016. Inspection of all other units will begin in 2017.
Inspections will not be intrusive for renters since they will typically occur very infrequently. Once a property is inspected, it will not be subject to another inspection for at least five years, unless there have been Notices of Violation issued by the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD). There will be requirements for inspectors to provide notice to renters in advance of the inspection, similar to the privacy laws within the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (see our blog post for notices required in residential housing).
RHIP is different from the current complaint-based system that relies on tenants to report code violations to Code Enforcement Inspectors at the DPD. Because of the risk of retaliation from landlords, some tenants are hesitant to contact code enforcement. RHIP will provide a more proactive way of making sure that housing is safe and habitable for renters by periodically inspecting all buildings. While tenants can still report code violations to the DPD, RHIP has the added benefit that anyone in the community – including housing advocates, police officers, neighbors, etc. – can call and alert the city to units that they suspect are uninhabitable.
Housing advocates are already working with the City to determine how to implement the new legislation and discuss how education about the program will take place over the next couple of years. For reliable information about the new ordinance, visit the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s website. It explains in detail the timeline for completing inspections for each type of rental housing. The Tenants Union website also offers information specifically for renters about the Rental Housing Inspection Program.
In addition to the DPD and the Tenants Union, renters can also call the Tenant Services Hotline at Solid Ground with any questions regarding your rights as a tenant, questions about the Residential Landlord Tenant Act or City of Seattle ordinances. The message line is 206.694.6767 and our hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm.
The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.