Seattle Now Requires Rental Property Registration and Inspections

Sad day for Seattle slum lords. Seattle City Council just passed a law (adding a new Chapter 22.214 to the Seattle Municipal Code) requiring all rental housing in the City to be registered and inspected. Apparently the ‘complaint based’ system was not working very well and many inhabitants of rentals around Seattle are living in mold infested or otherwise sub-par conditions. This is not news to me. I often view property used as rental housing and have seen some gross stuff.

What rental property in Seattle is required to be registered?

ALL property (houses, condos, mother-in-laws, etc…) that is used as rental housing is required to be registered, with some exceptions such as short term vacation rentals and ADUs (or mother-in-laws) where an immediate family member is living in the ADU.     With Condos and Co-ops the registrations is for the individual unit, not the building.

When do I have to register my rental property by?

  • All housing that has 10 or more units must register by July 1st, 2012.
  • All housing with 5 – 9 units must register by January 1st, 2015
  • All housing with 1 – 4 units must register by December 31st, 2016
  • Registration must be renewed every five years.

When will rental inspections happen?

It is random! The Department annually selects from the pool of registered homes to have inspections. At least 10% of all registered properties will be inspected annually. The Department ensures that all properties are inspected at least once every 10 years.

How much does registration and inspection cost?

There will be a registration fee for all properties as well as an inspection fee when the inspection is performed. I can’t find any information on how much so will update when I have the details.

Who does the inspections?

Inspections are performed by City Inspectors or by private inspectors approved by the City.

What if I sell or purchase rental property in Seattle?

The registration can be transferred to the new owner who has to pay a transfer fee.             I see some interesting negotiations happening with investment property in the next four years. The buyer may ask the seller to get the building registered (and possibly inspected) prior to completing the purchase. I wonder if escrow will take care of the transfer and transfer fee if requested?

What happens if I don’t register my rental property in Seattle?

Any property owner who fails to register a property, transfer a registration or renew a registration is subject to a penalty of $1,000

What happens if my rental property fails inspection?

You will be given a reasonable amount of time, not more than 30 days, to make corrections to the property. If you fail to make the corrections, you are subject to a cumulative civil penalty of $150 per day for the first ten days the violation or failure to comply exists and $500 per day for each day thereafter.

There are many more finite details such as a list of the items inspected for compliance. So, if you own rental property in Seattle, please read the Public Meeting Records on this topic.

My thoughts on this? Well, it’s just too bad that the ‘bad guys’ are spoiling things for the ‘good guys’ again. I mean how hard is it to keep your place habitable? Greed is a part of human nature. One negative I can see with all this is that the cost will certainly be passed to the tenants in one way or another and Seattle rents are already so high! But I can’t come up with a better solution myself so I will just have to see how this plays out. Anybody else have any thoughts on this?