Should Seattle require all landlords to register rental units?

Sep 12, 2012

The city of Seattle wants to crack down on problem rental buildings by requiring landlords to register and get inspections of their units. Tenants’ advocates say they’re hopeful the new system will mean fewer people living in unhealthy or dangerous housing.

Jonathan Grant runs the non-profit group Tenants Union of Washington State. He says he hears from tenants all the time about the poor conditions of their apartments.

"Situations where a roof has a crack in it and black mold has been growing, people have had to take their kids to the hospital because of mold inhalations and various health issues," Grant said.

That’s why Tenants Union, along with other groups, has been working with Seattle’s city council to create a new system of rental registrations. Landlords would have to come to the city, register their units and pay a fee. Then, every 5 to 10 years, they’d have to get their units inspected for health and safety issues.

There are some exemptions, like for mother-in-law units and short-term vacation rentals. But overall, if the ordinance passes, most landlords will have to adjust to a new system and a bit more red tape.

Sean Martin of the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound says he thinks it’s overkill.

"There are certainly places that are identifiable that we recognize are bad properties, but we don’t believe that a mandatory inspections program is really going to find those places and get out those, and it’s really just going to be punitive and punish the good landlords," Martin said.

Martin says he doubts the worst landlords will even bother to register. Jonathan Grant of Tenants Union says eventually, city inspectors will find those units. He says the new system will let the city keep better tabs on those places.

Right now, a city council committee is considering the measure. It may come up for a vote before the full council on October 1st.