Housing inspectors have started making random visits to some 90,000 apartment units in Seattle as part of a law to ensure landlords are meeting basic housing safety standards.
Inspections under the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance went into effect late last month after the city council passed the program in 2013. The RRIO uses a 44-point checklist that covers issues such as leaks, exposed wires, and broken water heaters.
“No one in Seattle should be forced to live with a roof that leaks, a toilet that doesn’t flush, or an unreliable heating system,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a statement last month. “By registering rental properties and conducting random inspections, we can help ensure that these properties meet the basic standards that any of us would expect.”
So far, 45 buildings have been inspected out of 100 that have been notified, according to the city’s Department of Planning and Development. Historically, the city relied on renters to file complaints with the city against their landlords, but many renters didn’t know how to file complaints or felt intimated to not report violations.
Landlords will get at least 60 days notice before a property is inspected and renters must have at least two day’s notice before the inspection date. Inspections are carried out by either city inspectors or private inspectors trained by the city.
All properties with 10 or more units should have registered by September 30, 2014. All properties with 5-9 units should have registered for the program by March 31, 2015. The city has estimated that up to 10 percent of rental homes have moderate to severe problems.
Meanwhile, tenants rights and affordable housing is shaping up as a key issue in the race in the Council District 3 race. Expected frontrunner City Council member Kshama Sawant has made lifting the state ban on rent control her top issue in the campaign.