Random Property Inspections Could Cost Landlords

Seattle has been working on a rental inspection ordinance since 2006.  Last week, lawmakers there laid out a proposal modeled after the one in L.A., with the ambitious goal of inspecting each and every one of the city’s 42,000 rental properties.

The plan will likely be accomplished by instituting random rental testing.

The problem the city faces is the lack of a database of available rental properties to inspect. The proposal will require registration, and as the database builds, the city will randomly inspect properties on that list. Once a property is inspected, and assuming it passes the inspection, the address will be removed from the random selection process.

The city proposes using private inspectors to conduct the inspections. The market rate for these inspections is about $250 for a single family home, and $250 plus $35 per unit for multifamily buildings. The current proposal does not state whether any or all of that fee will be passed on to the landlords.

Landlords who fail to comply with the mandatory registration will pay a fine of $150 per day for the first ten days of noncompliance, and then $500 a day after that.

The proposal also includes an allocation to tenants who would be forced to relocate if the city pulls a rental license over serious code violations. Currently, the relocation fee is $3,321. That fee will be paid by the landlord.

Councilmembers are considering a proposal that would allow landlords to “self-inspect” the properties and submit a report to the city in lieu of a formal inspection, subject to a proposed $1,000 fine for reporting false information.

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