Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Four Years of Western Front Editorials and Still No Action on Rental Health and Safety

For the fourth year in a row, the editorial board of the student run newspaper, the Western Front, has called on the city government to ensure the safety and health of the renters in Bellingham.  You can read about the three previous editorials by clicking here, here and here.

The most recent editorial is dated 5 Nov and entitled "In Support of the Tenant Rights Advocacy Proposal".   (Click here to read that piece.) The editorial states in part, "This proposal targets the Bellingham City Council and mayor, who have failed to pass any ordinances regarding licensing and inspection, increasing renter safety while staying consistent with state law. Bellingham, Wash., tenants continue to be subject to the state’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1973."

Unfortunately, there is as yet no concrete proposal.  In an email exchange with Western student Theo Bikel, who is working on the proposal, I learned that we are likely to see the document early next week (25 Nov).   We do know from the editorial that the students are seeking redress not only for poor rental conditions that are a danger to health and safety but also for redress for mistreatment by landlords over such issues as un-returned security deposits, un-reimbursed repairs and overall unresponsiveness.   The former problems come under the toothless Residential Landlord-Tenant Act which gives the tenant a right to legal avenues that are, to a great extent, mostly unworkable and unaffordable.  For the past 50 years or more the landlords have had the upper hand.  It is time to establish a just equity.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Western Students Talk of Dangers in Renting in Bellingham

Students are gearing up yet again this year in an attempt to get the City Council to listen and act on their complaints of mistreatment by landlords and of unsafe and unhealthy living conditions in rentals throughout the city.  On election eve, 5 October, students met to discuss the dangers of renting in Bellingham.  An account of their meeting was published in the student newspaper, the Western Front.  You can read that article by clicking here.

The departure of Stan Snapp and Seth Fleetwood from the council eliminates two voices that have consistently worked to slow down or stop an ordinance to license and inspect rentals in Bellingham.  The apparent election victory of Pinky Vargas and Roxanne Murphy will change that dynamic, however, it remains to be seen by how much.  Pinky's grasp of the issue is thin and Roxanne is operating with experience of a flawed rental licensing ordinance in Tacoma, WA.   You can read my assessment of their thoughts on rental inspections on NWCitizen by clicking here

The issue will come before the "new"  council again in 2014.  The proposal brought forth by Jack Weiss should be re-introduced but given a healthy dose of scrutiny.  The Mayor, who has been talking about a proposal during 2013, should bring that forward formally, too.  To date we have few specifics from her.  You can read about what we do know about both in my blog entry of 29 July entitled Rental Health and Safety Pushed into 2014.  Click here to read that entry.

The need for action is stunningly obvious to the student renters (10,000+/-).  The Mayor and the City Council should heed their voices.