Seattle Landlords Now Required to Register Property and Submit to an Inspection

Learn about Seattle’s new Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance.


In a city that prides itself on being socially progressive, the American Housing Survey found that “nearly 10 percent of Seattle area rental housing had ‘moderate to severe’ physical problems.” This prompted the city of Seattle to implement a new ordinance, the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, that will require landlords to register their rental property upon passing an inspection. The ordinance will be phased in starting in July 2014, with the last deadline being December 2016. (See the specific deadlines and standards for inspection.) As yet, there has not been much talk about the consequences or implications of this ordinance. I am in favor of it.

Although it will be costly for landlords who take shortcuts, it is a protection that is long overdue.  Until now, Seattle (and the rest of Washington state) has had a complaint-based system, while this ordinance is preventative in nature. The Landlord-Tenant Act allows a tenant to withhold rent and pay it into an escrow account if the condition of the property substantially endangers or impairs the health or safety of a tenant. However, the tenant must first make a good-faith showing that he or she is unable to repair the conditions and must have complied with complicated notice provisions. The tenant also bears the burden of notifying the government official (RCW 59.18.115). A lot can happen between 10-year inspections, but at least it is better than never. I have seen and heard of tenants living without power, water, and other basic needs we take for granted, for months or even years. This is unacceptable.

One of the city’s objectives is to educate property owners about this process and the standard of maintenance expected. None of the standards are prohibitive. Our job as counselors and advisors is also to educate our clients about the best way to do business. If landlord-tenant attorneys are successful in educating landlords and helping them understand how to comply, it should not really affect them.  Landlords who have properly maintained their property will pass inspection and be ready to let, while their less-than-diligent competition will not pass. Essentially, it will reward the good landlords and weed out the bad ones. I say way to go, Seattle!

3 thoughts on “Seattle Landlords Now Required to Register Property and Submit to an Inspection

  1. Arron Renfrew (@ArronRenfrew)

    It is nothing more than an Unconstitutional Tax on the People…under the guise of Safety…In 1984 a very similar Ordinance was taken to the Supreme court and found Unconstitutional… It is also an invasion of privacy and an unfair tax that will slightly raise rents.

  2. Joann L. Pheasant

    Your blog is inaccurate as well. You state here that “nearly 10 percent of Seattle area rental housing had ‘moderate to severe’ physical problems.” That is not true or correct. The accurate quote is of a “National Survey” (unspecified survey, unspecified geographic area, unspecified if statistically viable study) up to 10% of housing was substandard. The actual information from article is “The 2010 American Housing Survey (part of the U.S. Census) showed that an estimated 10 percent of Seattle-area rental housing has “moderate to severe” physical problems.” Big difference. I hope you are more accurate in your legal writing than in your blog writing.

  3. Joann

    Another boondoggle program for the City Overloards. You should realize that the City will be incentivized to find any and all minescule problems and blow them up. The result will be full employment for City employees, and increased housing costs for anyone who is living in an older building or house. There has been a lot of criticism over the Goodman Company’s remake of Lock Vista & doubling the rent of the apartments as they are renovated. The tenants do not want the “needed updates” because it comes with a hefty cost.

    There is already a mechanism in place to deal with landlords who do not provide adequate services.

    What exactly do you think the result of this measure will be? Great housing? Lower rents? What you will have is higher rents – a lot higher rents, higher property taxes to support the bloating of the City Inspector’s office, and another increase in City employees.

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