Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fairhaven Rental - Off the Charts (A Sequel)

Last week the Zonemaven provided the story, as told by a parent of a WWU student, of a disaster of a detached ADU in Fairhaven. The ADU was on a lot that also contained a two-story, single family home that also appeared to be in questionable condition. Click here to refresh your memory on that horror show. A photo of the house and the detached ADU is at left.

A few days ago, the Zonemaven visited that house to give the renter(s) a flyer on taking the survey of rental conditions sponsored by the Viking Community Builders. (Click here for the survey) A young man answered the door and told the Zonemaven that he had just moved in weeks before and that he was a construction worker. He was vaguely aware of the problem with the ADU and knew that someone had just moved out. The Zonemaven spent a few minutes telling him the ADU story and then asked him if he had experienced any serious problems with his rental. He said "not really" and then invited me into the house to take a look.

First of all, the treads of the stairs leading to the small front porch had just been replaced however they were of uneven length. The treads were also not uniformly deep creating an uneven stair pattern. The entry way into the home was dirty and plaster was falling off the wall exposing the bricks underneath. The foyer linoleum was filthy and badly worn. Entering the living room, the Zonemaven discovered an aging and large gas heating unit on the floor that occupied about 20% of the room's floor space. The unit was vented through the wall, presumably to the outside, by metal stove pipe duct work. Several of the access panels of the unit were not in place, exposing what appeared to me to be the ignition element. Since the unit was on the floor, any object dropped on it could easily hit the inner workings of the heater.

Moving into the kitchen, the Zonemaven asked if the windows operated properly. He said that some did, however, the window above the sink would not lock and that he discovered that it would fall out of the window frame - so he screwed it shut. The door to the back foyer had a non-operational locking mechanism. The foyer had a plywood floor that was rotten at one end due to a hole in the wall that let the rain from outside flow from the concrete pad into the house. The kitchen appliances were old and worn but appeared operational. The enamel kitchen sink was badly worn.

The bathroom had recently been partially remodeled and the tub/shower area was new. The tub grout was already separating from the wall/tub junction at one end suggesting that the tub was moving vertically either because of the weight of the person in the shower or because the floor was not stable or both. In fact, the floor was visibly slanted toward the tub and the tenant opined that the sub-floor might be rotted.

The house was badly in need of paint and the gutters in the rear were twisted and partially separated from the eaves. The Zonemaven had no access to the second floor of the residence that was a separate living unit. The renter was not available.

Upon leaving the residence, the Zonemaven went to the alley behind the home where the dilapidated ADU was located. This was the unit mentioned in the first paragraph above. Since the departure of the student renter, the entire south side of the ADU had been stripped of its siding. This was the side that had rotted completely away in one corner.

More from the mother of the student: "Icing on the cake-- My daughter actually cleaned this place before she left so she could get her deposit back! (Including black mold that covered the bedroom wall behind her bed.) They returned the deposit less $75 for carpet cleaning! The carpet was not cleaned before she moved in nor before her housemate at the time, who moved in prior to her. I can't imagine they are going to clean the carpet now. She is not sure if they are tearing down the whole building or just the wall. I was under the impression it was the whole building, but not sure why." ... "FYI her place just had the 2-pronged plugs also. I also wondered about her ancient appliances. It seems the city inspected [as the result of their formal complaint in December] the structural aspects but not the electrical. Hopefully Bellingham will start to have rental inspections!"

She goes on in a later email: "When I first visited my daughter in Feb of last yr I bought her a smoke and CO2 detector because her smoke alarm didn't work right and everything was so old I thought it very possible that it might save her life. The smoke detector that was provided went off continually every time she took a shower and the steam came up from downstairs (since there was no ventilation) so she took the battery out. Not a good thing to do, but I wonder how many ...tenants have the same problem and remove the batteries? ... It seems that for some of these realtors, avoiding blame is all they are really concerned about, not the safety of residents. It is pretty disgusting."

The Zonemaven encourages the residents of Bellingham, especially the renters, to write to the mayor (mayorsoffice@cob.org) and to the city council (ccmail@cob.org) and ask them to do the right thing, license and inspect rentals.


Anonymous said...

From my experience with rental agents one can expect such enlightened viewpoints as: "Whadayexpect for $500 a month? Buckingham Palace? Get lost kid" If the agents even feel a smidgen of "diplomacy" is required, they will dig out a promise to speak to the owner to defer action as long as possible .

Thick skinned indifference is almost a norm in that line of business Meanwhile property and disticts decay a bit more and decent law abiding occupier/owners are victimised without consideration

Rental business licences are overdue. Every other business in town requires a city licence why not the real estate ruffians who are eroding the city districts?

Zonemaven said...

Well said. The renter of the ADU in the article was paying $525 a month. The renters in the house on Grant St. that was gutted by fire were paying over $1,300 per month.