City of Lakewood Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program

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1 City of Lakewood Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program The Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) was approved by the Lakewood City Council on July 5, RHSP is designed to ensure that all rental housing units comply with specific life & fire safety standards and are providing a safe place for tenants to live. Starting in September, 2016, all rental property owners will be required to register their property with the City every year and have the property inspected once every five years. There are an estimated 13,700 rental units in Lakewood. Based on data from other jurisdictions with similar programs, the City anticipates 10-15% of those total units would be considered substandard at inspection. The RHSP creates a system to address and monitor rental property issues without the need for a tenant to complain first. Initial registration will open November 1, 2016, and close December 2, Inspections are scheduled to begin in May Failure to comply with registration will result in fines and/or penalties. RHSP is administered through the City of Lakewood Community Economic and Development Department. Property registration and inspections are processed by the Community Services Division. As the program continues to be refined the City will share additional information with rental property owners, landlords and tenants as soon as it becomes available. GENERAL INFORMATION What is the Rental Housing Safety Program? (RHSP) The City's RHSP is a new program that is intended to ensure that all rental housing units are safe to live in by requiring all rental property owners to register their rental property with the city every year and have it inspected once every five years. Why is Lakewood implementing this program? The Lakewood City Council has determined that rental units likely exist that are unsafe to live in. The intent of the RHSP is: To ensure that Lakewood s rental housing meets specific life and fire safety standards. To promote compliance with these standards so that the health and safety of tenants is not jeopardized. To increase awareness and sharing of information relating to rental housing standards between existing and future rental property owners, property managers, landlords and tenants. Are there any "exemptions" to the RHSP? Yes, there are "exemptions." These are listed below: Owner-occupied rental units; Units unavailable for rent; RHSP Program Description - Page 1

2 Any facility such as a hotel, motel, condominium, resort, or any other facility or place offering three or more lodging units to guests for periods of less than thirty days, provided that if any guest resides for a period of thirty days or more, then such facility shall be subject to this chapter. Housing accommodations in retirement or nursing homes; Housing accommodations in any hospital, State-licensed community care facility, convent, monastery or other facility occupied exclusively by members of a religious order, or an extended medical care facility; Rental units that a government unit, agency or authority owns, operates or manages, or that are specifically exempted from municipal regulation by State or federal law or administrative regulation (This exception does not apply once the governmental ownership, operation or management is discontinued); Mobile or manufactured homes (these fall within the jurisdiction of Labor and Industries); Rental units: That receive funding or subsidies from the federal, state or a local government; That are inspected at least every three years as a requirement of the funding or subsidy; That provide a copy of the inspection to the City; and Accessory dwelling units; and Shelters and transitional housing. What are the timelines for registration and inspection? September 6, 2016: The City will contact rental property owners by mail informing them on how to register their rental property (or properties) during the registration period beginning November 1, 2016 and closing December 2, Additional public outreach through media and neighborhood associations will be distributed, as well as updates to the RHSP website, November 1, 2016: Rental registration period opens. Rental property owners will be able to register online, by mail or deliver their registration in person to the City's Permit Center on the main floor of City Hall. December 2, 2016: Rental registration period closes. All eligible rental properties must be registered by this date. The City will begin conducting follow up with rental property owners who did not register, provided incomplete or inaccurate information or whose initial notification was returned because of an incorrect mailing address or change in ownership. December April 2017: The City gathers information and updates the database: property owners who did not register; property owners who provided incomplete or inaccurate information; or whose initial notification was returned due to incorrect mailing address or change in ownership. May 2017: The City intends to initiate rental inspections at this time. The City will continue to release updated RHSP information as it becomes available using a variety of methods, including the City's web page, www. cityoflakewood/rentals.us, and the publication of Technical Assistance Bulletins. Are there other communities that have implemented a similar program? RHSP Program Description - Page 2

3 Yes, several cities in Washington State have similar programs such as Seattle, Lacey, Pasco, Bremerton, Tukwila, Tacoma, Mountlake Terrace, and Bellingham. What if I don't own or reside in a rental property? The RHSP works primarily with rental property owners, their representative, rental property tenants, and inspectors. If you do not fall into one of those categories, then the program does not impact you directly, but you can still be involved. Let friends and family who own rental property in Lakewood know about the program and registration requirements. REGISTRATION Registration can be completed one of three ways: using the online registration system, in person at the Permit Center, or by mail. More details regarding registration will be released soon. You will need the following information to register a property: Property's address and parcel number (found on the Pierce County Assessor's website); Contact information for owner and property manager/landlord (if applicable); Number of rental units at the property. A rental registration is transferrable to any person who at any time has acquired ownership of a registered rental property. However, that rental registration is only valid for the unexpired portion of the one year term for which it was issued. SAFETY INSPECTION Once a rental property has been registered with the RHSP, it is set up in a database. Using that database, the City selects rental properties for inspection on a random basis. Inspections will begin in May All registered properties will be inspected once every five years. Once an inspection for a rental unit has been scheduled, written notification of your intent to allow an inspector to enter must be provided to the tenants of that unit per RCW (6). 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. City of Lakewood inspectors may perform the inspection. If a rental property owner or landlord chooses, they may hire a qualified private inspector provided they have the necessary certifications and are approved by the City. More information regarding the inspection certification program will be released soon. If my property has more than one unit, will every unit be inspected? Not necessarily. Here are several scenarios that will help you determine how many of your rental units will be inspected: Owner-occupied buildings. For any rental properties between one and four units, all units will be inspected. RHSP Program Description - Page 3

4 For rental properties between five and 20 rental units (in one or several buildings) on a single rental property, up to four total units will be inspected every three years. If you own 21 or more rental units (in one or several buildings) on a single rental property, 20% of the total number of units (but not more that 50 total units) will be inspected every five years. What components of a rental housing unit will be inspected? Basic 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 parameters are consistent with RCW (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 health safety concerns UNLESS they are introduced to air or water by way of removal or disturbance. PROPERTY MANAGERS & LANDLORDS What can property managers and landlords do? Property managers and landlords can assist with the implementation of the RR&SIP is a few ways: Maintain good communication with the property owner to make sure they are in full compliance with program and understand their responsibilities; Inform tenants of the program details at the time of lease signing; and Respond in a timely manner to maintenance requests. Failure to Comply It is a violation of the RHSP to be currently renting out or offering a unit for rent that has not been registered with the City. Failure to register a rental property in a timely manner will result in financial penalties being assessed to the property owner. RENTERS How does this program benefit renters? The RHSP helps ensure that all rental properties in Lakewood meet fire & safety standards and are kept in good maintenance. Examples of meeting those standards include: presence of working smoke detectors; safe & functional emergency exits; proper ventilation systems installed; and working heat sources. Rental property owners are required to comply with the Inspection Checklist or face penalties. What is the renter's role in the program? Renters/tenants can assist with the implementation of the RHSP in a few ways: Encourage the property owner or manager/landlord to register the property; RHSP Program Description - Page 4

5 Learn about maintenance standards and notify the manager/landlord when things need to be fixed or are not up to standard; and Contact the City of Lakewood f the owner is not complying with the RR&SIP by either not registering or not meeting the maintenance standards. Contact Information: Lakewood Community & Economic Development Department, Rental Registration Coordinator, (253) , cityoflakewood/rentals.us RHSP Program Description - Page 5

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