Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bellingham Creates Web Page on Landlord/Tenant Resources

Shortly after the City Council voted on June 20th not to continue down this year's path toward licensing and inspecting rentals, the City of Bellingham added a page to its website that outlines resources for landlords and tenants. You can peruse this web page by clicking here. Warning: Dependence on this site may be hazardous to your health and welfare!

The page provides links to various statutes that cover landlord/tenant relationships and directs tenants to some organizations that assist tenants who may be in conflict with their landlord over issues such as rental unit condition, withholding of security deposits and other legal problems.

Unfortunately, the site is passive. You have to look for it. If you have no computer, you are out of luck. Furthermore, the site does not, nor can it ever provide to the tenant an assurance regarding the safety and health conditions of a rental. Under current circumstances, the tenant is on his or her own.

Therein lies the problem that I have discussed many times on this blog. The tenant is in no position to judge the condition of a rental - nor, for that matter, are most landlords. It is not stupidity. It is ignorance. Regrettably, no amount of information on a web page can provide tenants the wherewithal to ensure that the unit he or she is about to rent is safe and presents no health hazards. For that assurance one needs the eye of a trained and state approved housing inspector or code enforcement officer.

The solution for Bellingham is rental housing health and safety inspections; the key to a decent, habitable and secure rental stock.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Western Front Notes Failure of Rental Licensing to Pass

Just after the Bellingham City Council voted not to initiate a process to develop a rental licensing and inspection ordinance in the city, the WWU student newspaper, the Western Front, published this brief editorial comment on 30 June.

“Rental revamp would have protected tenants...
On June 20, the Bellingham City Council voted against a motion to require rental licensing and an inspection program for rental properties. These inspections would make sure rental properties were safe to live in.

Councilmember Terry Bornemann said the cost of the inspections would come with a fee, which the rental agencies would pass onto their tenants.

In an environment where 18,000 residents live in rental houses and apartments, there needs to be a way for renters to be protected. The small cost for inspections is minuscule to ensure that unsafe living conditions in Bellingham diminish.

If the main concern of the Bellingham City Council is the cost being passed onto tenants, then they should create a regulation to make sure it won’t happen. Stricter inspections and a zero-tolerance policy could make rental agencies change their practices when dealing with tenants."

The Associated Students (the student governing body) approved a resolution supporting rental licensing and inspections last year. (Click here to read that resolution)The Western Front is also previously on record in support of such legislation. (Click here to read that editorial)

The student body is becoming more aware of the manner in which they are placed at risk by substandard housing. Perhaps they can persuade the City Council of the same during the coming academic year.