If there’s already a process by which to uphold due process is yet another process – a sub-process if you will to, truth be told, five other processes, so that somehow realized is the cumulative purpose of all six processes – is that a solution in search of a problem?
Or is that just government?
Yes and yes.
Lakewood’s latest foray to expand its latitudinal and longitudinal plunder of rental properties amounts to little-by-little layered leverage making less-and-less the loopholes landlords might otherwise utilize to lean on hapless tenants living in hard-scrabble squalor throughout – or at least somewhere – in the City.
Lakewood’s leaders are contemplating the insertion of uninvited (it’d be required . . . or else) inspectors into 13,700 rentals beginning this fall.
Should the law pass, all landlords must register for the rental inspection lottery. Best hope you don’t win.
For those who would like not to participate in this gamble – before prize-tickets are printed – attendance at a July 5 Public Hearing on the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) is encouraged where verbal concerns can be voiced and, in the meantime online, written comments submitted.
Where might this lead?
The City Council of Seattle, one of a handful of other cities after whom Lakewood has patterned it’s RHSP, just this past June 6th was unanimous in taking the next step down the road of so-called “tenant protections” in “forbidding landlords from raising rents until they bring their properties up to standards.” And that’s just the beginning. “A bill to cap move-in costs” is to follow, Councilmember Kshama Sawant promised. And, as if that weren’t enough, Seattle Councilwoman Councilmember Lisa Herbold advocated “for doubling down on tenant protections and repealing the Washington State ban on rent control.”
San Francisco has been there done that. Legislation in 2014 proposed “barring landlords from passing on to tenants the costs of upgrades to bring the apartments up to code.”
In 2015 SanFran supervisors passed amendments prohibiting rent increases and evictions based on the addition of occupants. Upon vacancy, landlords were further required to set base rents for the next five years. And, among other restrictions, landlords, seeking to retake “possession based on a nuisance,” must show the nuisance to be “severe, continuing or reoccurring.”
“Boiling water” is now claimed to be just such a nuisance.
In a San Fransico legal case “that tenants’ rights activists are concerned will set a worrying precedent” – and which illustrates how layered, and laborious, legislation as Lakewood is proposing with its rental inspection program can backfire, let alone boil over into the courts – attorneys representing the landlord are charging that “defendant’s usage of gas or electrical appliances is dangerous.”
When “no infraction (is) too small to escape the scrutiny of fine-happy officials” you get not only the unforeseen consequences and legal push-back in San Francisco but yet another legal tangle in Pagedale, a suburb of St. Louis, where “City inspectors even judge interior design decisions, (citing residents) for mismatched curtains.”
Lakewood’s RHSP architects acknowledge the existence of a most applicable State Landlord Tenant Law that addresses – already – everything remotely related to this issue.
“Instituting a robust tenant/landlord outreach educational program,” (p.9 of 12) was an option presented to the council. But in the cost/benefit analysis, on a scale of 1 to 6 with 1 being low and 6 being high, the benefit of communicating to the residents of Lakewood their rights, responsibilities and privileges whether renters or landlords received but a paltry score of 2, and cost 4, with the result that the whole communication concept was considered on the low end of priorities.
There is a solution already – and readily – available but ignoring it, opting instead to create government-inspector-approved tenant trolls, ‘sets a worrisome precedent’ for what is cumbersome, convoluted and contorted – making the relatively simple onerously complex – the cities noted here in this article being examples.