A selection of rental housing properties will receive safety inspections starting this month. These inspections are taking place under the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO), which was established by the Seattle City Council to help ensure that rental housing properties in Seattle are safe and meet basic housing requirements and safety standards.
“Over half of Seattle’s population lives in rental housing, yet an estimated 10 percent of rental homes have moderate to severe problems,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “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. 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.”
Historically, Seattle relied on renters calling the City about rental problems when they were not fixed by the property owner. But not all renters knew they could call, or felt comfortable complaining about issues with their landlord.
“This is a big step towards addressing the housing problems that we encounter in the course of our work,” says Kira Zylstra of Solid Ground, an anti-poverty and social service organization in Seattle. “We applaud the City for taking a proactive approach to renters’ rights. This program protects tenants by shifting the responsibility away from the tenant when there are safety concerns that have not been addressed.”
Inspectors will look for the basic safety and maintenance issues described on the RRIO Checklist, a set of plain-language requirements developed in consultation with rental property owners, renters, and other community members.
For instance, all families in Seattle rental homes should have functioning smoke detectors, emergency exits, hot and cold running water, and working heat.
“These inspections are in the best interests of tenants—they make sure everyone has safe quality housing. They are not designed to look at personal items, furniture, or how a renter lives,” said Paul Mar of the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority.
The City is committed to working with property owners and managers to make this a fair and balanced process. When an inspection is required, property owners will have 60 days’ notice from the City, and their choice of using a City inspector or a qualified private inspector. In addition, if a property cannot meet the RRIO standards by the inspection due date, the property owner or manager can request an extension.
“We felt that the City and DPD were very inclusive of rental housing owners and managers throughout the establishment of RRIO. We appreciated having a seat at the table,” says Sean Martin, of the Rental Housing Association, an organization made up of property owners, property managers and businesses that provide services to the rental housing industry.
RRIO has registered over 90,000 rental units so far, or about half the units in Seattle. Of the properties due to register by the first due date, over 99 percent have completed the registration.
All properties with 10+ units should have registered by September 30, 2014. All properties with 5-9 units should have registered by March 31, 2015. Properties with fewer than 5 units will be registered throughout 2015-2016 based on a schedule set by zip code. Rental properties will not be selected for inspection until they have been registered.
The Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance was established by the Seattle City Council after an extensive public involvement process to help ensure that all rental housing in Seattle is safe and meets basic maintenance requirements. The program educates property owners, managers, and renters about their rights and responsibilities, and through a comprehensive registration and inspection process, helps make sure that rental properties meet City housing codes.
Visit the RRIO website for more information.