Monday, May 31, 2010

Western Front Editorial Board Reverses Opinion on Rental Licensing

A 25 May Western Front Editorial Board opinion piece reversed an earlier, 26 January editorial that opposed rental licensing in Bellingham. The Board stated that it "has come to believe that the health and safety benefits of landlord licensing would far outweigh any slight increases in rent." The reversal of an editorial position takes some courage and this blogger doffs his editorial hat in recognition of the Western Front's decision. (You can read the 26 January editorial by clicking here. The 25 May editorial link is here). This reversal follows a lively discussion held by the Viking Community Builders on 17 May on the topic of rental licensing. The Zonemaven described that event in an earlier blog entry (here).

Noting the health and safety benefits and the inability of students to determine if the units they are renting are in livable condition, the editorial dismissed the objections of landlords and supported the concept of a rental inspection program. The Board also recognized the advisability of the local government to regulate that which is equivalent to a public accommodation, e.g., hotels or restaurants.

The Zonemaven, in continuing conversations with WWU students, has noted a growing movement among them to organize, gather information and to take a message to the City Council that the students will no longer tolerate sub-standard housing and the annual "crap shoot" in hunting for a decent place to live. With over 8,000 renters among the student body, the City Council will have to take notice.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that rental housing should be clean, sound & safe. I also agree that people should be considerate of their neighbors in terms of parking, noise and garbage. The debate about how to achieve these desirable situations has gone on for a number of years. I blame some landlords and some tenants for allowing it to reach this point, because now everyone will have to pay for the few who are jerks.
A good landlord takes care of the property - we personally inspect ours annually and instruct the management company to have repairs done as problems arise. We also make it very clear that we will not tolerate renters who are not respectful of their neighbors. Problems very seldom arise, and when they do, they don't happen again. I think this is the stance any responsible landlord needs to take.
On the other hand, tenants also have responsibilities. They need to report problems with the property to the management, and if it is not dealt with appropriately, they need to report it to the Health Department, the Fire Marshal, Building & Codes, etc. They need to pick up their garbage, control where their visitors park and keep the noise down.
On both sides - landlords & tenants - it is a minority who are irresponsible and cause problems for others. Surely the problems can be handled through the existing health, safety and police systems rather than adding another layer of cost to housing. Why not establish inspection requirements based upon violations & complaints rather than as a blanket policy? To impose it on landlords and tenants who are already taking care of their responsibilities seems like punishing everyone for the transgressions of a few...not very efficient use of time or money.

Zonemaven said...

Dear Anonymous,

As I have said over and over again:

Even responsible owners do not know everything about the condition of their properties, Consider this. The city of Pasco found that 15% of the units inspected under their program had serious life/safety issues. 10% had mold problems. A full 85% had problems of varying degrees. The city of Gresham, OR performed over 1600 inspections in 2009 and issued, as a result, over 4,000 citations. Lexington, KY performed inspections of units near the University of Kentucky and found that 50% had life/safety issues. Why do you believe that the condition of rental housing here in Bellingham does not mirror that which is found in cities that have the statistics to show that time and time again the condition of rentals in our cities is problematic?