Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tacoma Passes Weak Rental Inpsection Ordinance

The City of Tacoma, Washington has passed a rental inspection ordinance - "lite". Landlords in Tacoma have already had to obtain a business license to operate a rental since 2004 (Click here for more information) Unfortunately, the addition to the municipal code, entitled Provisional Rental Property License, passed by the Tacoma City Council earlier this year, calls for inspections only at the time the city discovers that there are problems with the rental.

A report of poor conditions can come from a renter; from an official of the city, who may incidentally view violations; or any citizen, such as a neighbor who might have knowledge of a problem. This is equivalent to the complaint-based systems, in existence in many cities, that do not work. The Centers for Disease Control have spoken on complaint-based systems and has judged them ineffective (click here to read the document).

You can read the new Tacoma ordinance by clicking here. You can read a Tacoma Weekly article and a King5 News piece on the topic by clicking here and here.

The Zonemaven immediately became suspicious regarding the strength of the law at the time he discovered that the Tacoma ordinance had been supported by the local rental owners' group, the Rental Housing Association. Our equivalent local Northwest Rental Owners' Association is vehemently opposed to any rental licensing in Bellingham. Any indication that this group begins to support rental licensing is a flag that the specific licensing proposal is not really worth considering as it will be inherently weak.

Other cities in Washington have passed more robust licensing and inspection ordinances. Pasco has had a very effective licensing ordinance for over a decade. Tukwila, Prosser and Seattle passed rental licensing ordinances in 2010. Unfortunately, Bellingham appears poised to follow the example of Tacoma with a rental-licensing-"lite" proposal, soon to be on the table. More on that in a later blog entry.

The Tacoma ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

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