Under the guise of yet another – five currently – program to address so-called “rental housing problems within the city,” Lakewood’s sixth – in the form of a proposed ordinance that is distinguished from the other five in that it would for the first time require access by city-approved inspectors to the interior of private rental properties – may very well be literally a foot-in-the-door, a portend of things to come.
Ostensibly, at least for now, “ensuring a standard of safe and decent living conditions for everyone who lives in rental housing in the City” is the claim found on several city website documents tracing the research and development of the “Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program” (RHSP), or RIP.
What happens next – should the overwhelming opposition to the measure that has been expressed so far be viewed by Council as no more than the so-much-typical ‘no-one-likes-change’ hue-and-cry from those they are elected to represent – may well be that as just transpired in Seattle.
David Kroman reports in the June 6, 2016 issue of “Crosscut” that landlords will be “forbidden from raising rents until they bring their properties up to standards.
“Under this new proposal, landlords will be required to bring buildings up to code before they can raise rents.”
And that’s just the beginning.
“The next step in a forthcoming series of tenant protections laws: a bill to cap move-in costs,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant promised.
As to legislation opponents who argued “that this is a form of rent control, which is prohibited under state law, and could open the city to lawsuits,” Seattle Councilwoman Councilmember Lisa Herbold countered, in effect, ‘bring it.’
If the city did end up in court, Herbold saber-rattled, “‘our response should be to take this even further,’ advocating for doubling down on tenant protections and repealing the Washington State ban on rent control.”
Heading down that road is Lakewood’s City Council with its own – but similar – version of RIP.
While at its retreat held on February 21, 2015 “Council was clear that no consideration will be given to legislation without a better understanding of the community perspective” – to which end on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. “the Lakewood City Council will hear public testimony” regarding its proposal – nevertheless the draft of the rental housing inspection checklist is done; dates requiring property owners to register have been set; ‘commencement exercises’ for the entering of private rental properties by city- or city-approved inspectors is scheduled; fees associated with the program (estimated by city staff at $175,000 annually) to be borne by landlords are in place; and financial remuneration “comply or face penalties” are threatened.
Ironically, this same date of June 8, 2016, M.D. Kittle writes in “Watchdog.org” of the proposal by lawmakers – of all things – to institute a “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights to protect homes from government.” While specifically referencing “land-grabs”, the article contains an interesting quote that may well characterize Lakewood’s Rental Inspection Program:
“Unfortunately, the creep of overbearing government at all levels has imperiled property rights and homeownership. It’s time for reform that protects and defends homeowners,” said the lawmakers, “from non-essential regulation.”