Rental licensing and Inspection Proposal

As a concerned Landlord and resident of Whatcom County I am hoping to raise awareness of the City of Bellingham’s Rental Licensing and Inspection ProgramThere will be a public meeting to discuss the City of Bellingham Rental Licensing and Inspection Proposal with the Bellingham City Council Planning and Community Development CommitteeMarges house_1

  • Thursday, May 30 4PM to 5PM
  • WWU Academic West Room 304
  • Information on parking: Patrick Stickney 360-650-3736
  • Additional information: Jack Weiss 738-2103

The current proposal has been spearheaded by Western Students in response to their survey during spring quarter of 2012.  The survey was mailed to 3571 students who had registered as living in off-campus housing.  Of those surveys only 846 fully completed the survey and indicated they were renters.  The City of Bellingham has approximately 17,000 rental units. So this survey represents a mere 5% of the rental population in Bellingham.

The Bellingham City Council has previously discussed this issue in 2008 and 2011.  Both times they voted to not go forward with the program.  The latest discussion was started January 28, 2013 with (AB19827).  The audio for that discussion can be found here :

The committee again discussed the proposal on February 11, 2013:

and on April 22, 2013 (http://www.cob.org/services/education/btv10/videos/council/2013-04-22-council-committee-meeting.aspx ).

At this time there is no firm outline of what exactly the program will entail or how much it will cost.  It is suggested that the inspections will be based on “safety issues” however, Councilmember Jack Weiss at one point suggested that furniture be moved because, “you can hide a lot of defects behind a couch.”

I see several issues with this proposal.  First, we already have ordinances on the books that have to do with rental housing and the City is unable to enforce those ordinances.  For example; there is an ordinance that limits the number of unrelated people who can share a house to, “three.”   The City does not enforce this rule.

I have concerns about the liability the City is exposing the taxpayer to with this program. Essentially, the City will be putting their seal of approval on the rental unit as “safe”.  What happens then if there is a fire?  Who is responsible?  The City said it was safe.

The final issue is probably of even more importance.  The committee is suggesting that every rental residence in the City by inspected about every three years.  The only way they will accomplish this is to inspect the units while tenants are living in them.  I think this raises serious issues of invasion of personal privacy and illegal searches.

I encourage folks to look into this issue and contact the City Council with your thoughts.

Delaine Clizbe

(Whatcom County resident and owner of several rental housing units)

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2 comments

  1. I agree with Delaine’s concerns. If the City can’t enforce nuisance ordinances it already has on the books, how will passing additional laws help? They will only add to expense, inconvenience, and increased liability for the City. Although I do not live in Bellingham, a bad idea is a bad idea – and once established, something like this has a way of spreading!

    Simple consumer education is a better approach. It would be beneficial, in my opinion, to inform students about the channels that already exist for addressing renter/landlord disagreements. If they know what their obligations and rights are, and know how to proceed when usual avenues of negotiation have failed, then maybe they would not be clamoring to support a proposal that will not provide much – if any – benefit to them.

  2. I agree Peggy. There was an offer from the real estate association to work with the students to provide them with information, thus far it does not appear that is going anywhere. The proposed inspection schedule is something like every three years. So a college student would expect their unit to be inspected once during their college stay.

    I have previously brought this topic up on my FB page. One comment I got from a person who rents went something like, “I think rentals should be inspected. We have only one smoke alarm in our house and who knows if that one even works.” I find this is the attitude surrounding this proposal. They want someone else to come into their home and push that little button to see if their smoke alarm is working. Ridiculous! At some point people need to take some responsibility for their own health and safety! Push your own smoke alarm button!

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