Thursday, January 12, 2012

Western Front Editorial Again Calls for Rental Inspections

For the second time in two years the Western Front's editorial board has affirmed its support for an ordinance that would ensure the health and safety of renters in Bellingham. In a 6 January editorial, that also recommended that students obtain renters' insurance, the board stated, 'This editorial board supports rental licensing that would protect the students and families that inhabit Bellingham’s 18,000 rental properties." [You can read the board's complete editorial by clicking here. The Western Front's earlier, 2010 editorial on the subject can be found here.]

Students have good reason to be concerned. Here is the tally of near fire disasters in the last twelve months:

- A fire on Grant Street in the York Neighborhood burns. Three WWU students nearly perish. All four renters displaced. Click here to read more.

- A fire at the Daylight Building on State Street leads the fire marshal to discover that an apartment in the building has no viable fire exit for several of the rooms. Two students displaced. Click here to read more.

- A fire on Maple Street nearly kills three of the five renters, all of whom are WWU students. They lose everything in the fire. Click here to read more.

- A fire on 24th Street nearly kills an entire family in a rental home. Two students in an adjacent part of the duplex are displaced due to fire damage. Fire marshal's report pending. Read the Western Front article on the student victims here.

The tally? Thirteen students directly affected by serious fires, several of which nearly cost lives. All of these fires were electrical in origin as was another fire on Ellis Street that apparently did not involve WWU students. All of these blazes were largely preventable, especially had the city an inspection program in place.

These fires are not the only dangers facing students and other renters in Bellingham. Serious problems with mold, structural defects, blocked exits (24th Street fire!), carbon monoxide leaks, gas leaks, faulty heating systems, faulty plumbing, vermin, and all types of filth abound. I remind my readers of the survey done by a WWU student group last year that revealed the remarkable extent of the problems with conditions in rentals. (You can review the survey here.) I urge my readers to re-examine this survey and write to our council members ( to ask them to enact an ordinance to license rentals and ensure the health and safety of the renters with regular physical verification of conditions by certified building/home inspectors.


John Erickson said...

If not licensing there should be at the very least yearly fire inspections. BFD has decided that businesses must have a yearly fire inspection, the first year's cost is $150.00 and $90.00 there after. My brief research shows that the most fires, by far, happen in the one/two single family residences. Why are these business owners exempt. Ask your new Mayor if this is acceptable.
John Erickson

Zonemaven said...

Thanks. I agree wholeheartedly and have already spoken to the Mayor (as a candidate) about this last fall. If you are going to do fire inspections, you may as well do an overall inspection of conditions in the unit. No sense going only half way since people can be killed or injured by all sorts of things having nothing to do with fire.