Does the City of Lakewood have the authority to create the RHSP?
Cities, such as Lakewood, have the authority to require business licenses of those who are in the business of renting residential property pursuant to RCW 35A.82.020.
Additionally, in 2010, the Washington State Legislature authorized local municipalities to establish rental inspection programs. RCW 59.18.125 Inspections by local municipalities-Frequency-Number of rental properties inspected –Notice –Appeals—Penalties (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.125).
Cities that adopt a rental inspection/licensing ordinance must comply with RCW 59.18.125 which states in part:
"Local municipalities may require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection as a business license condition. A local municipality does not need to have a business license or registration program in order to require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection. A certificate of inspection does not preclude or limit inspections conducted pursuant to the tenant remedy as provided for in RCW 59.18.115, at the request or consent of the tenant, or pursuant to a warrant."
Many cities have rental housing inspection programs of similar nature: e.g., Seattle, Pasco, Bellingham, Tacoma, and Mountlake Terrace.
The Washington Supreme Court, in City of Pasco v. Shaw (2007), found that the City of Pasco’s Rental Housing Inspection Program was consistent with the state Constitution as it allowed provisions for independently certified compliance by having an approved class of inspectors conduct required inspections, rather than exclusively municipal employees. The burden of the landlord is to provide the certificate of inspection, which does not necessarily permit the City entry onto the property (although the landlord can provide permission to that effect). City of Pasco v. Shaw (2007)
The City of Lakewood’s RHSP also has provisions for independently certified inspectors to conduct required inspections.
What components of a rental unit will be inspected?
Health and safety components, including: structural integrity; weather exposure; plumbing & sanitation; heat, water, and water facilities; ventilation systems; defective or hazardous electrical wiring and/or service; safe and functional exits; smoke & carbon monoxide detectors. These components are consistent with RCW 59.18.030 (1).
Mold will only be a component of inspection and remediation if, during inspection, it is determined to be a symptom of weather intrusion, plumbing leaks, or lack of ventilation. In the event that mold is determined to be caused by lifestyle, the City will only offer advice to the tenant in how to reduce or eliminate mold in their dwelling. The City will not be inspecting for lead paint and asbestos as these are generally not life safety concerns UNLESS they are introduced to air or water by way of removal or disturbance.
The inspection checklists are available to the public and located in the left sidebar. The intent of these checklists is to provide a reasonable level of predictability for owners, residents and inspection personnel. No checklist can encompass every possible scenario and not all apparent violations present a threat to the health or safety of tenants. Accordingly, inspectors are required to use a significant amount of professional judgment.
Does every unit at the rental property need to be inspected?
No, only those units specifically listed on the notification letter sent by the City of Lakewood.
What are the requirements of the notification to tenants?
Prior to the inspection occurring, written notification of intent to allow an inspector to enter must be provided to the tenants of that unit. According to RCW59.18.150(6) this must occur no less than 48 hours prior to the inspection date. The notice must indicate the date & approximate time of the inspection and the name of the company or person performing the inspection. It must also indicate that the tenant has the right to see the inspector's identification before they enter the unit. For examples of 48 hour tenant notices please click single family/mobile/manufactured homes
OR multifamily properties
. These notices are fully editable for your use.
What if I don’t register my rental property or rental property units?
Any rental property owner who fails to complete the required documentation and pay an initial registration fee or renewal registration fee on or prior to the expiration date of the registration shall be subject to penalties and/or late fees as determined and adopted by the City Master Fee Schedule and/or penalties in accordance with LMC 5.60.150, or LMC 5.02, and could result in a Rental Business License revocation in accordance with LMC 5.60.060.
What happens if a tenant denies the landlord/inspector access to the property?
Per RCW59.18.150(1), "The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises [...]" A tenant who denies access to the property after the landlord has provided the two-days' written notice as required by RCW 59.18.150(6) will be subject to the penalties outlined in RCW 59.18.150(8).
Do I need to register if I am renting out bedrooms in the property I own and live in?
No, not as long as you are living at the property. If you ever move out and rent out the entire property, you will be required to register.
“Accessory dwelling unit” or “ADU”
A housing unit that is accessory to a single-household dwelling and meets the requirements of LMC 18A.70.313 for accessory dwellings.
"Certificate of inspection"
An unsworn statement, declaration, verification, or certificate made in accordance with the requirements of RCW 9A.72.085 by a qualified inspector that states that the landlord has not failed to fulfill any substantial obligation imposed under RCW 59.18.060 that endangers or impairs the health or safety of a tenant, including
- structural members that are of insufficient size or strength to carry imposed loads with safety,
- exposure of the occupants to the weather,
- plumbing and sanitation defects that directly expose the occupants to the risk of illness or injury,
- not providing facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant,
- providing heating or ventilation systems that are not functional or are hazardous,
- defective, hazardous, or missing electrical wiring or electrical service,
- defective or hazardous exits that increase the risk of injury to occupants,
- conditions that increase the risk of fire.
The City Manager or designee assigned with the enforcement of this chapter.
As used in this Chapter, means any person(s) hired or engaged for the purpose of providing management services for any Residential housing unit within the City of Lakewood, where the Manager(s) has/have no ownership in the Residential housing unit being managed.
Any person who, alone or with others, has title or interest in any building, with or without accompanying actual possession thereof, and including any person who as agent, or executor, administrator, trustee, or guardian of an estate has charge, care, or control of any building. This definition includes, without limitation, the owner, lessor, or sublessor of the rental unit or the property of which it is a part, and in addition means any person designated as representative of the owner, lessor, or sublessor including, but not limited to, an agent, a resident manager, or a designated property manager.
A United States housing and urban development certified inspector; a Washington state licensed home inspector; an American society of home inspectors certified inspector; a private inspector certified by the national association of housing and redevelopment officials, the American association of code enforcement, or other comparable professional association as approved by the local municipality; a municipal code enforcement officer; a Washington licensed structural engineer; or a Washington licensed architect.
As used in this Chapter, means any complex of five (5) or more residential units on one property or on adjacent property owned by the same person or persons, or business entity, or multiples thereof or combinations thereof, or five (5) or more residential rental properties located within the City of Lakewood not on adjacent properties but owned, in whole or in part, by the same owner(s).
"Rental-housing Complex Owners"
As used in this Chapter, means the individual or individuals, partnership(s), corporation(s) or any combination thereof owning or having an ownership interest in any residential housing unit within the City of Lakewood.
A residential housing unit occupied or rented by a tenant or available for rent by a tenant.
“Residential housing unit”
All dwelling units on a contiguous quantity of land managed by the same landlord as a single, rental complex. This definition includes, but is not limited to any structure or part of a structure in the City of Lakewood that is used or may be used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one person or by two or more persons maintaining a common household, including but not limited to single-family residences and units of multiplexes and apartment buildings.
A facility with overnight sleeping accommodations, owned, operated, or managed by a nonprofit agency or governmental entity, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless.
A person occupying or holding possession of a building or premises pursuant to a rental agreement.
Residential housing units owned, operated, or managed by a nonprofit agency or governmental entity in which supportive services are provided to individuals or families that were formerly homeless, with the intent to stabilize them and move them to permanent housing within a period of not more than 24 months.
“Unit unavailable for rent”
A residential housing unit that is not offered or available for rent as a rental unit, and that prior to offering or making the unit available as a rental unit, the owner is required to obtain a residential rental business license for the building in which the unit is located and comply with applicable administrative regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter.