The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is proposing some major changes to the Housing and Building Maintenance Code, and to the city's inspection program on rental buildings.
An ordinance currently in the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee would amend the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, a program that started in 2015, to require private inspectors submit failed inspection results to the city; raise the percentage of units that are inspected; add lead paint and other requirements to the standards. The updates came from a stakeholders meeting in spring 2016. It would likely take several months to implement, SDCI officials said, once the council passes the ordinance.
Maria Angeles, who was interviewed by The Stranger for its Tuesday article on Seattle's inspection program, appeared with a translator for the committee's public hearing—again saying her Rainier Beach apartment has cockroaches, rats, and mold; and that nothing's changed, while her rent increases, since an inspection for the building was conducted.
Right now the city only conducts about 40 percent of inspections, while 60 percent of inspections are conducted by private inspectors, according to the city. And if there's found to be a problem, the Department of Construction and Inspections has the discretion to decide whether to inspect more units in the building.
There are some other changes they're considering—like reducing the 60-day notice given to a property owner about an inspection, and establishing criteria that would apply to both city and private inspectors (when additional units should be picked for inspection).
There have been no major changes on the Housing and Building Maintenance Code since 1991. The ordinance would require that more than 2 square feet of peeling paint in pre-1978 buildings get corrected and adds carbon monoxide alarms to city requirements, which would both be in accordance with state law.
The requirement that 20 percent of units be inspected, instead of 15 percent, would then apply across the board, addressing criticism that it unfairly targets small landlords with more inspections. (Though large units will still be limited to a maximum of 50 units inspected.) Inspections began in 2015, and since than the city's conducted more than 5,000 inspections.
The RRIO program's auditor position also originally had a 2018 sunset date, but the city plans to make it a permanent position through the 2018 budget process.