Seattle’s recent Rental Registration & Inspection Code means big changes for many in the real estate investment industry, whether or not they hire property managers. The code requires that every rental property in Seattle city limits be registered and inspected, and deadlines for doing so vary depending on the number of rental units. For example, if you have more than 10 units in your rentals, you should have already registered before September 15th or you will face a fine. If you have 9 or fewer units, you have until March 31, 2015, and if you have 1-4 units, you will have to register between 2015 and 2016 based on your zip code. While the ordinance is currently only affecting property managers in Seattle, it should soon spread to other areas like Sammamish, Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodland, which means that outlying areas should begin to make changes as well.
Registering Rental Property
Seattle property managers and owners who register basically tell the town hall that they have property for rent, how many people they rent to, how many units they have, any inspections, and the condition of the property. It also allows the city to systematically inspect every rental unit in the area to ensure that all of them offer safe living standards. Registration must be renewed every five years, and inspected at least once every ten years in order to comply with standards.
Starting in 2015, every rental property in the Seattle area must be inspected by someone with at least one official inspection credentials. Qualifying credentials include an American Association of Code Enforcement Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector certification, International Code Council Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector certification, International Code Council Residential Building (Code) Inspector certification, or Washington State home inspector certification under RCW 18.280. Prices do vary greatly from inspector to inspector, but once passed and registered, you can typically get your letter of compliance on the spot.
How to Comply
If you want to make sure that you comply, first, you should register your units, and second, you should use the checklist provided by the City of Seattle to ensure that all of your units are up to standards. If you have a local property manager then they should be able to handle the details for you, but you should still read them to get a good idea of what is required, which is mostly habitable and safe living quarters. Because some 10% of rental housing didn’t hold up to those standards in 2009, it is extremely important that you pay attention and assess your units fairly. If you have issues, getting them fixed as quickly as possible is the best way to go. It is also important to note that if one of your tenants has called in a complaint to the city previously, your units will be among the first inspected as part of the new system.
With Seattle moving forward with their new Rental Registration & Inspection Code, Seattle dwellers have the opportunity for better and safer living conditions. However, it is your responsibility as a landlord or Seattle property manager to ensure that your rental units meet safety standards if you want to continue renting property in the area.