There is a bill before the state legislature in the current session concerning rentals that would require a tweak here, a tuck there, of the Landlord-tenant act.
In other words, just tidying things up a bit.
In stark contrast is Lakewood’s Rental Inspection Program (RIP) which essentially ignores the broad scope and comprehensive document that is the Landlord-tenant act in favor of micro-managing who lives where and how in the city.
House Bill 1720 seeks simply to clarify, and in some instances, modify, language of the Landlord-tenant act – length of stay; notice of rent amounts and the like – all of but two pages.
Lakewood’s Ordinance No. 644 seeks, contrarily, in seven pages – 69 boxes – of rental inspection criteria – and two years of contemplation consuming untold hours of city staff and council time – to extricate from the Landlord-tenant act a single word, and upon that word extrapolate, and in the process, exacerbate, common sense.
It’s the single word: “may”.
At the Lakewood City Council’s February 21, 2015 retreat, council members were introduced to the Rental Inspection Program by city staff and told that “local governments may provide for a rental housing inspection program as a condition of business licensing” (p.33).
“May”, is not a requirement.
‘Must’ is, and ‘must comply’ is now the new modus operandi of Lakewood government, the new wing, if you will, that council has added to City Hall, an edifice of monstrous proportions casting an ominous shadow over the entire landscape, from which citadel – in affect – sword-wielding city-approved inspectors sally forth, forcing entry into private rental property when a simple tweak here, tuck there of the existing Landlord-tenant act would have sufficed.
Quibbling you say? Mere semantics? Much ado over nothing?
Consider the following explanation – obtained by Public Disclosure just last month – of what happened the night of July 5, 2016.
That was the night the City Council held a Public Hearing – didn’t have to they said but benevolently did so – on the controversial Rental Inspection Program.
That night, before an audience largely comprising opponents of the RIP, a video was shown featuring Jesse Jones of KIRO, which presentation had originally aired the previous March 16.
The video shown by the City on the night of July 5 – revelations about which were reported here in this publication two days later- was cut off abruptly at the 2:54 minute mark. The video however, when aired four months previously on KIRO, was a full 4:03minutes long as shown here.
What happened in that last 69 seconds?
Via Public Disclosure documents obtained just recently, the City responds:
“To be clear, the portion of the segment that was included in the Council presentation (the 2:54 minutes of the full 4:03 minutes of the segment) was aired in full and in no way was edited or manipulated. The only portions of the segment that were cut were the dialogue portions from the newscasters (:09 seconds at the beginning; 1:02 seconds at the end). In the latter portion, Jones talks specifically about weatherization laws for tenants/apartment owners, then goes on to say that the Lakewood apartment featured in his story was one of the worst he has seen.”
But aren’t specifics “about weatherization laws for tenants/apartment owners” the point?
And is that explanation entirely accurate?
The fact of the matter is, eliminating the conclusion of the actual KIRO presentation was to leave the audience without the solution – and a relatively simple one at that, even if “the worst” ever seen – to the very problem Lakewood leaders say won’t, or can’t, be addressed without government help, i.e. RIP.
In those missing sixty-nine seconds, Jones shares what viewers can do should they find themselves in similar situations.
In just over one minute, Jesse wraps up his investigation by providing viewers – some 27,000 people ‘liking’ the story – how to get help and provides the link to the Landlord Tenant Law wherein all manner of options and remedies are available to tenants who find themselves with leaky roofs.
Additionally, as the educational component of Jones’ investigation demonstrates given the breadth of his audience, the referenced RCW in his brief clip even states that “if the landlord fails to remedy the condition or conditions within a reasonable amount of time the tenant may request that the local government provide for an inspection of the premises with regard to the specific condition or conditions that exist.”
Still not finished, Jones then states, “If you want the best document on Landlord/Tenant Law check out the Northwest Justice Center.”
Yes, “weatherization laws for tenants/apartment owners” are the issue.
So is showing how to simply access them.
Lakewood didn’t show that part.
Sixty-nine seconds. Could have, should have, didn’t.
Tweaking an existing law for purposes of clarity and simplicity is admirable.
Complexifying that same Landlord-tenant law, let alone semantically excusing the disappearance of readily available solutions, is not.
And all four incumbents who voted for the Rental Inspection Program, proud of their accomplishments, want to represent you again.