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Sawant calls for support of Seattle ‘slumlord’ legislation

(Image: Council member Sawant via Facebook)

(Image: Council member Sawant via Facebook)

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is rallying the troops Monday afternoon to celebrate what should be City Council approval of a new Seattle “slumlord” law that will stop landlords from jacking up rents in poorly maintained buildings while also protecting tenants from surprise rent increases. The City Hall scrapper is calling for support of what she says is a key amendment passed out of committee but still vulnerable in Monday’s final vote:

An amendment was also passed to strengthen the bill by giving tenants more time to report violations, but it wasn’t unanimous. So we need to turn out and defend it. By speaking out and showing up, you can help ensure that we have the strongest ordinance possible.

UPDATE: The City Council passed the bill in an 8-0 vote on Monday. “We will use it to organize for a far larger tenants bill of rights,” Sawant said.

The new rules will restrict landlords from raising rents in properties that don’t meet required standards and will transfer enforcement from Seattle Police to the Department of Construction and Inspections. The rules would also require landlords provide at least 60-day notice on rent increases of 10% or more. The bill is sponsored by Sawant and is her first legislation in 2016 outside the Energy and Environment committee she chairs.

Sawant’s office says more pro-tenant legislation is moving forward including a bill “to massively expand relocation assistance for tenants forcibly evicted by dramatic rent increases” and a bill to cap “the exorbitant move-in fees that are found all over this city.” “Tenant protection laws are effective only to the extent that tenants are informed of their rights, are aware of their legal options, and are able to report violations,” a Sawant statement on the legislation reads. “We need to organize.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday night will bring a meeting of the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative:

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative June Meeting
Wednesday at 6 PM – 7 PM
12th Avenue Arts 1620 12th Ave, Seattle
We have a very special guest this month. Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez will be joining us! This is a rare opportunity to have a Councilmember in a small room. Bring your questions and thoughts you’d like to share with her. We’ll be ordering food. RSVP here to let us know if you are coming so we can get an accurate head count. See you there!

Agenda:
6pm – Welcome and Introductions
6:15pm – Conversation with Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez
6:35pm – Updates, Announcements, Next Steps (think about any information you want to share with the group)
6:45pm – Social Activity
7pm – End of Formal Meeting
7-7:30pm – We’ll stick around if folks want to hang out and/or work on special projects

You can learn more about the initiative in this CHS Community Post.

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11 thoughts on “Sawant calls for support of Seattle ‘slumlord’ legislation

  1. Sounds great but what are the consequences to the economy?

    The city should start expropriating the apartment buildings and condos in Seattle, it’s the only solution to stop landlords and speculators from competing and profiting.

    How about the tenants get ownership of the building if any deficiency is identified and not remedied in 30 days.

    Don’t buy real estate in Seattle if you expect consistency of law and regulations (one of the factors in any investment decision), but the properties in Socialtopia aren’t that good and nobody is incented to reinvest.

    • Your suggestion for the City to “expropriate” private property is laughable and totally unrealistic.

  2. Personal anecdote FWIW:

    As a landlord on the hill who works to be responsible and attentive, part of my decision to raise rent was in response to the cost of the recent new regulations requiring my unit to be registered and submitted to the inspection lottery. As someone with one property who became a landlord unexpectedly (due to relocation), the added hassle of figuring out how the new law worked along with the fee was one of the (many) contributing factors. (there were other factors too, like increased property taxes, HOA dues etc)

    Now, I’m not complaining – I can more or less recoup these and my other expenses with occasional rent hikes, and if/when my current tenant moves out, I can raise the rent enough to go from breaking even on my mortgage to making a little profit.

    But long story short: more laws protecting renters are good if necessary, but they come with a cost for everybody. And if that need is real they are a sign that landlords aren’t playing the game fairly and in good faith. Before you go supporting these laws, you’d better be really sure that the problem they are trying to fix is bad enough that the costs are warranted.

    • Tenants have nothing to lose when it comes to supporting tenant rights. Landlords are going to raise the rent anyway, so why should any renter be concerned with your resulting hassle? Comments like this are nothing but fear-mongering, laced with descriptions of mysterious, sinister “costs for everybody”. Yet there is never actual information on how not supporting this legislation will negatively impact tenants.

      The hassle imposed on landlords/management companies, could in many cases be the aversion of downright devastating circumstances for the people of Seattle who need a place to live. I am continually blown away that virtually every landlord places their inconveniences above humans having a moderately priced places to live. Landlords have earned the slumlord title for a reason. These laws are entirely necessary at this point.

    • Dear “A”, your comment that “Landlords are going to raise the rent anyway, so why should any renter be concerned with your resulting hassle?” is dismissive and untrue. I haven’t had my rent raised in the last 7 years, and that was only due to new laws and regulation fees back then. Before that it had never been raised.
      “district” actually stated personal experience and asked people to educate themselves before supporting something, that’s not fear-mongering.

    • You may be a responsible landlord, but many are not, and this new legislation is designed to stop the abuses by irresponsible slumlords. It is very necessary and I fully support it.

    • ERF,
      Your comment relies on weak inductive logic, and does not represent Seattle any more than mine. I’ve had my rent raised 3 times in 7 years, and these haven’t been small increases. The worst was a $450 increase, at which point I promptly moved out. This did not happen 12 years ago. I’m sure there are people like yourself who have been lucky, but there are also a lot of us who haven’t been. Like I said earlier, I don’t think tenants have anything to lose at this point. If it’s between having my rent go up because of greed or having my rent go up because the landlord was required to actually sustain my building, I’ll take the latter.

    • “Your comment relies on weak inductive logic, and does not represent Seattle any more than mine.”

      Excuse me “A” but my comment relied on no logic at all. I gave you my personal experience. Also, because I live here, my comment actually does represent Seattle from my perspective.

      I’m not even arguing the content of the article at this time. I’m writing to defend “district” since you attempted to dismiss what was written as fear-mongering, which it was not.

    • You’re free to go ahead and comment on the content of the article. No one forced you to jump in and defend someone in the comments section. In my opinion, the way “districts” commentary is worded towards the end imposes a tone of fearfulness. Fear to be felt by renters that this legislation will do more harm to their renting situation than many landlords have already done. I’ll rephrase and call it ~lite~ fear-mongering. Was it deliberate? Don’t know.

  3. These new laws are squarely targeting older properties, which happen to be the last best option for affordable housing in this city. I recently had my first property inspected via the new city inspection program and incurred $4000 in costs for a very well maintained six unit building. The inspector noted some very minor softness in a bathroom floor and required I remove the vinyl to determine if there was any rot. Of course doing that means removing the toilet, sink, and trim along with the vinyl floor, then reinstalling new flooring (I chose to upgrade to tile), repairing any rot (there was none), and re-installing all the trim, toilet and sink. Not a small job if done right -which it was. Total cost was almost $2000 for the bathroom. Now they are contemplating expanding the inspection program to inspect even more units per property and penalize owners who select a private inspector over those employed by the city. Why do this when the current program is not even fully in place and no attempt has been made to analyze it’s effectiveness?
    Another example? The new law requiring owners of properties with five or more units (of which one or more is affordable) to notify the city if they intend to sell the property. Presumably intended to preserve affordable housing by giving the city an opportunity to purchase such buildings, the law really provides owners of these buildings an incentive to raise their rents to avoid the notice requirement. I have buildings with long term tenants and sub-market rents. Why would I subject myself to further oversight by the city, especially with regard to the sale of my asset, if I can avoid it by raising my rents to market?
    My other option is to sell, which will result in very large increases for my current tenants. The end result of these provisions will be to harm tenants by raising rents in older rental housing, either by current landlords or by new owners. I understand the desire to help tenants in this difficult housing market. Unfortunately, there are adverse consequences to some of the new laws and no one on the city council seems able to offer ideas other than imposing new costs and restrictions on landlords, which will definitely not increase housing supply or lower rents.

  4. This law will encourage landlords with older buildings to sell to developers, who will tear down or otherwise modernize the buildings. Then they get to charge higher prices for “newer” apartments AND avoid any inspection issues for several years.

    This will not help tenants.