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‘Has your landlord violated your rights?’ — Sawant office preparing legislation to strengthen penalties for landlord violations

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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HTS3
HTS3
8 months ago

‘Has your tenant violated your rights?’ — Sawant office preparing legislation to strengthen penalties for tenant violations—is a headline we will never see. Yes, after a number of complaints, only 5 landlords were given fines. Was this perhaps because most landlords, when faced with fines, make good on required changes?
Council Member Sawant says that Capitalism forces people to rent from wealthy, for-profit landlords. Yes, that’s sort of how capitalism works. Many landlords are actually small businesses—that people have invested in rentals as a business. Sort of why we all also buy our food from stores or even directly from farms—Also capitalism. Restaurants—also capitalism. Ms Sawant clearly believes that we should abandon Capitalism and hey, let’s start by socializing all housing. Oh wait. She lives in a single-family house, if I’m not mistaken.

Yes, renters deserve rights
Yes, renters deserve rights
8 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

I don’t understand how your dialogue about capitalism has anything to do with renter rights. You seem to be on another useless monologue about disliking Sawant. As a low income renter in Seattle for the past 15 years, I can attest that most landlords these days are a nightmare to deal with, and the majority are not small businesses either. They’re large companies buying up buildings and think they have very little responsibility to the properties. Most maintenance requests are met with silence and often the blame is placed on you regarding pests. Good luck ever getting a deposit back because they’ll come up with a laundry list of bs to steal it from you, if not send you a bill for more in the mail. Rent is increased so drastically year to year, you end up having to move on a yearly basis. I’ve personally had to move 4 times in the past 5 years. They’re business model is practically based on taking advantage and stealing from low income people, treating them with zero dignity or respect. Not sustainable at all; I would gladly welcome protections against these landlords, aka. slumlords.

R U Serious?
R U Serious?
8 months ago

That’s not a coincidence. Many policies, including those championed by Sawant, make it difficult if not impossible for “mom and pop” landlords to stay in business, which effectively hands their market share over to megacorporations who don’t care about their tenants. Sawant, unlike her voters, is well educated in economics and knew ahead of time that this would be the result of her policies.

Yes, renters deserve rights
Yes, renters deserve rights
8 months ago
Reply to  R U Serious?

Many buildings being sold off are in terrible condition to begin with and weren’t even being properly maintained. 30 years worth of band-aids, many of these “mom and pop” landlords are ready to take advantage of the market and retire. Or move on to their next venture. The lack of dialogue in regards to creating solutions that could potentially work for everyone is exhausting. Every time her name is even brought up its just bitter dialogue without proposing anything remotely productive. The fact of the matter is that low income people in this city are constantly being treated as less than just because we don’t have the privilege of owning. Landlords shouldn’t have a legal upper hand that gives freedom to abuse tenant rights, I’ve had these experiences with large companies and “mom and pop” landlords. I’m not saying all landlords are like this either. But its not a radical idea that there should be basic protections and securities that allow renters to not be completely taken advantage of. At the end of the day landlords aren’t going to lose their home over whatever issues take place on their properties. This pitty party over Sawant and “mom and pop” landlords completely deflects the actual issue at hand.

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

Which socialism are you using here? Socialism is a process that can be approached from a number of different directions. You leave out large factors that determine that direction and present it as though everything goes to the state. I assume you know better and your doing this on purpose. Making a transparent straw man argument doesn’t do you any favors.

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 months ago
Reply to  d4l3d

It occurs to me that I should add in case I was obtuse; what you describe sounds more like a Snidely Whiplash form of state capitalism.

kermit
kermit
8 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

Agree! But pointing out that many landlords own a small business and are not “wealthy” is not in line with Sawant’s tedious narrative that “all capitalism is bad”.

Bruce Nourish
Bruce Nourish
8 months ago

Seems like the primary long term outcome of a more explicitly punitive inspection regime would be to make old, cheap apartment buildings uneconomic. This would in turn cause their owners to sell for redevelopment as condos or high end apartments. I assume this is what CM Sawant desires?

Eli
Eli
8 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Nourish

Probably?

I already had to hand my building over to professional management to manage all the laws. Never raised the rent more than 2%/year in the decade prior, but jacked it up about 10% to pay for the new management fees.

Also: I’ve noticed that the “professional” management is more prone to want to raise rents on tenants each year, than a random person who just owns a small apt building and wants to keep things low-stress.

district13tribute
district13tribute
8 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Nourish

She openly states what she desires which is rescinding private property rights in any form and having the government provide all housing. What she and SA never answer is how socializing housing would improve anything. History has shown the only that happens is we all have equal crappy housing. What ever happened to her rent control legislation? She has promised that several times in the last year but has yet to actually do anything. It’s starting to feel like its something she trots out during election season so rally the base lol.

James
James
8 months ago

More bloviating from sawant.

Glenn
Glenn
8 months ago

Capitalism. Bad, Housing providers (we would like you to stop calling us landlords please). Bad. More inane and punitive housing regulations by our wonderful D3 Councilmember. Good. And that Renter’s Rights committee? What a joke.

Melindakam
Melindakam
8 months ago

We should all have rights. Landlords and tenants. To be fair rules and regulations should be clearly written down for both parties. The law should never be for one side only. Tenants can also be abusive when thinking that the law favours them. Which is also not a good thing. Everything needs to be fair and equal. We need a middle ground, a balance between what is a tenants responsibility and a landlords responsibilities fully written down so that we are all aware of our obligations and responsibilities toward each other not just as Landlords and tenants but as human beings. It’s understandable no wants a hole on the wall but who created that hole? Was it the tenant who accidentally did it or was the damage there before moving in? These things are fixable leaky faucets, broken windows, new paint jobs. But a tenant/s who takes advantage of situations or a trouble maker who thinks that they are above the law is more a nuisance than anything else.

Nomnom
Nomnom
8 months ago

I’ve lived in multiple apartments on the Hill since 1993 and never had a nightmare landlord and none of my friends (all of whom have lived here since the 80s or early 90s) have either. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but Sawant stirs up trouble “for likes” where there isn’t that much trouble, while ignoring the real issues that plague the Hill.