Kshama Sawant’s office says the District 3 representative on the Seattle City Council is preparing legislation “to strengthen the City’s enforcement procedures when tenant rights are violated” and is calling for tenants across Capitol Hill and the Central District to share their stories.
Has your landlord violated your rights?
- Ignored necessary repairs, such as for heating and hot water, addressing infestation, or fixing broken appliances?
- Unjustly withheld security deposits? Threatened retaliation for tenants speaking out?
- Attempted to unjustly evict? Increased rent without the legally-required notice? Charged extra fees?
- Other abuses?
Tell us your story! Fill out the form here.
“My office has heard from renters who have gone months without heat, without hot water, with mold or roach infestations, with holes in the ceilings, windows, and walls, and many other unacceptable housing conditions,” Sawant said in the announcement sent by her City Hall office last week. “We have seen a landlord attempt to intimidate renters into signing away their right to relocation assistance after their building was gutted by fire. We have seen landlords retaliating against renters who contact building management to request basic repairs, and many other abuses of renter rights.
“Under capitalism, in the absence of mass movements winning publicly-owned, high-quality social housing, most working people are forced to rent from wealthy, for-profit landlords,” Sawant writes.
According to census data, about 51% of the nearly 50,000 occupied units across all types of housing on Capitol Hill including single family style houses and apartment buildings are filled by tenants and renters.
Sawant’s office says that, despite complaints, the City of Seattle issued fines to only five landlords for violations
Typically, violations cited by the city give landlords the opportunity to address the issue. A recent example is the Ellenbert Apartments on E Harrison where residents reported the building’s owner this winter for a broken boiler during freezing temperatures in the city.
A representative for the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections tells CHS that the department worked with the complainant and other tenants “who confirmed they did not want to be relocated due to lack of functioning heat.”
“It’s also something we were hesitant to encourage, as it would essentially result in a pseudo-eviction with relocation fees provided by the landlord,” the city representative said.
Instead, the SDCI rep says the department agreed with the landlord that providing space heaters to tenants “could be a stopgap so long as CO/smoke detectors were functioning in each of the units.”
SDCI say the landlord also agreed to provide a $200 rental credit for each tenant to put towards added electricity bills related to the use of space heaters.
The boiler system was repaired in early January 2022, allowing SDCI to close the violation case.
No fines were issued in the case.
Sawant says the new legislation to strengthen penalties for landlord violations plus stories “from renters about how their rights have been violated” will be discussed this week at Friday’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee.
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