Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood
November 7, 2007
Councilmember Richard McIver, Chair
Finance and Budget Committee and
Members of the Seattle City Council
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2
P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
RE: Funding for Proactive Rental Housing Inspection
Dear Councilmember McIver and Members of the Council,
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees has reviewed the proposed budget item to add $75,000 in funding to the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to develop a proactive rental housing licensing and inspection program. We urge you to include this much-needed funding in the budget.
Over the years, Seattle has tried to address the need for inspections to ensure Code compliance of rental properties due to neglectful or irresponsible landlords. In the 80s’ our supreme court invalidated a rental inspection fee charged to landlords stating that it amounted to an illegal tax. Another effort by our city in the 90s’ also failed in the courts. We were encouraged by the efforts of the City of Pasco in its implementation of a rental licensing program that requires all rental dwellings, including accessory dwelling units which are rented to be licensed by the city. As a condition of the license, the owner of the rental property must certify that the dwelling meets minimum housing standards. This is just one model that DPD can review to develop a program that will work for Seattle to ensure that rental housing in our city meets the Code requirements. We were glad to that this program has passed constitutional muster by our state supreme court.
Currently, in our city there are few avenues to ensure that landlords meet Code requirements. For example, in Laurelhurst we have a 13 bedroom “rooming house” in an area zoned Single-Family 5000, and the Code only allows eight unrelated people to live in one dwelling. There is no way to ensure that more than eight unrelated people will be living in that establishment because inspectors are not allowed to enter the premises unless invited. Tenants are unlikely to complain because they do not want to lose their housing. The added occupants contribute to parking and traffic problems on our narrow streets. Another problem is with the owner-occupancy requirement for accessory dwelling units. Currently, DPD has no way to ascertain whether the owner does in fact reside on the premises. These are just two examples of problems DPD faces due to its inability to inspect rental housing, in addition to the many Code issues that affect the health and safety of our citizens and those living near rental properties.
The Laurelhurst Community Club urges you to incorporate the $75,000 budget item into the budget. This is an important quality of life issue for our city. Thank you for considering our views.
Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631