The City of Lakewood has proposed a brand new bureaucratic program called Rental Inspection Program or R.I.P. An opportunity for public comment will occur at Lakewood City Hall on July 5, 2016, at 7:00p.
Reference Mr. David Anderson’s letter published in The Suburban Times on 06-25-16 for more details regarding R.I.P. For viewpoints on both sides of the issue, read this The News Tribune article published 02-15-16.
While my article includes aggressive, frank and generally negative comments regarding the R.I.P. idea, I am not negative about our city council. I appreciate their dedication and service. City Council has requested public opinion. I am a public, so here is my opinion.
In 1969 we bought our first rental property, a brick duplex on Meadow Road in Lakewood. We lived in the duplex for eight years and rented the other half. We improved the property so as to be an asset to the neighborhood and to attract first class tenants. Government interference was not required.
From there we built a rental property portfolio involving ourselves with hundreds of properties both as rentals and short term holdings that we developed and sold for profit or loss. Our property development projects caused entire neighborhoods to improve. It was recycling on a grand scale as we transformed beat up properties into prideful properties. Government interference was not required.
At one time we owned a rental property management company based in Lakewood where we were responsible for 450 rental units.
We handled everything from low-income rentals to high-end marine frontage / view properties.
What I am telling you is that I have 40 plus years experience as a real estate investor / rental owner / property manager and real estate broker which certainly qualifies me to have an opinion on the City of Lakewood’s R.I.P. proposal.
Having said that, I wish to disclose that I am no longer a stake holder in this issue. I retired from real estate and no longer own or manage even a single rental property.
I am motivated to write this article because I have always been driven to make our world a better place, an ethical place and a place where everyone is treated fairly including property owners and tenants.
We currently have plenty of laws on the books related to how property owners conduct their business and how property owners maintain the condition of their properties. There is no need for more government interference.
Our city is taking the position they must protect the helpless and victimized rental tenant against the evil landlord. I support eradicating the victimization of tenants. I have no problem with going after slum lords and driving their bad practices out of our city.
Tenants already have options for protecting themselves without having government victimize quality property owners.
- Do not rent slum condition properties.
- If a problem develops in a rental property that the property owner fails to address, register a complaint using the laws already on the books, including the Washington State Landlord Tenant Law.
- Know your tenant rights.
- Move out.
I know. Someone will want to plead that the poor tenant can’t afford to rent anything other than a slum or the poor tenant can’t afford to move. Some tenants have warrants, sex offender registration violations or are in our country illegally. These tenants do not want to report any problems for fear of drawing attention to themselves or out of fear of suffering a backlash from their landlords.
Sad as that may be, tenant circumstances such as described above provide no justification for the City of Lakewood to victimize innocent property owners.
If society wants to fix some of these tenant problems, society needs to reach back and correct the continuous chain of bad decisions most of these individuals made to put themselves in the position where they are now “choice-less”.
What we have is a city proposal that will punish all good property owners because of the transgressions of a few property owners who rent slum properties to “choice-less” bad decision makers.
R.I.P makes as much sense as putting everyone who uses banks in jail after a single guy robs a bank. The R.I.P. plan uses the equation best described as Problem by a few = punishment for everyone.
The City of Lakewood’s R.I.P. will punish property owners, tenants and Lakewood citizens in several ways:
- Fees. The City of Lakewood is creating a bureaucratic program that will put their hand in the citizen pocket starting with something close to $175,000. Once the city “fee foot” is in the door, the fees will only go up.
- Time. Who is going to pay for the property owner’s wasted time required to deal with another and unnecessary bureaucratic inspection and paperwork process?
- Tenant inconvenience. If a satisfied tenant rents from a good property owner and has no problems to report, why should the city be allowed to enter the tenant’s property and inconvenience the tenant without a warrant? The city will be trampling on the tenant’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
- Investors will want to avoid buying rental property in the City of Lakewood.
- If good property owner investors avoid the City of Lakewood, we could find ourselves with less rental housing and more vacant buildings. The city will unwittingly make more people homeless.
- Once slum lords are forced to improve or sell their properties, the properties will qualify for higher rents. While I do not suggest that poor people should live in squalor, I am saying that the R.I.P. can easily generate negative unintended consequences. The city will unwittingly make more people homeless.
- Lakewood citizens who do not own rental property, but wishing to sell their personal home may lose the prospective rental property buyer and therefore take longer to sell their property and in the end for less money.
- Property owners will attempt to pass the extra expense for fees and time loss on to the tenants in the form of increased rents.
All of this rhetoric boils down to one key question. Why punish good business people / property owners?
For those readers who are not certain they agree with my view, let’s change the plan to include all property owners.
Let’s call the expanded program Housing Inspection Program or H.I.P. All home owners would be required to pay the city $100 a year for a 1 – 3 bedroom home. Each bedroom after 3 would generate an additional $25 fee. Each bathroom adds $10 to the fee structure. Garden sheds would run $5. Grandchildren’s play houses $2.
City inspectors would enter our private homes, invade our privacy and dictate improvements, manage our storage all of which would need to be complied with at homeowner expense. How does that feel? When you look at R.I.P. with victim eyes, it quickly becomes clear that the Rental Inspection Program should R.I.P or Rest In Peace.
City Council, I can well imagine because our city attorney, city manager and city staff have invested great amounts of time and energy in researching and designing the R.I.P., it will difficult to vote NO on this proposed ordinance in spite of public testimony and common sense. Please do the right thing, not the easy thing.
Voting YES on the R.I.P. ordinance will be like using a sledge hammer to smash a peanut.
City Council, please vote NO. Good property owners, who provide housing to citizens who cannot afford to purchase a home, should not be victimized, especially by their own city council.
David Anderson says
Thank you Joe for adding more fuel to this necessary fire. Though on a different subject, the following quote I think pertains to this Rental Inspection Issue: “You cannot build a great city on coercion. You have to make it a place where people want to live.”
A great explanation of reality if this is placed into law for Lakewood..
Thanks Joe for your insight.
J Adkins says
Thank you Joe, I agree with your point of view. In addition to adding more red tape to both the tenant and the landlord, there are many other ways to accomplish what the City is trying to accomplish without adding the RIP rules. The rules are already in place. People just need to know how to use them.
My question would be will it kill the Foreign exchange program at Pierce College? Students rent rooms from American families to learn our culture. $175 a year would hamper what is already a difficult task to find people willing to open a room in their house.
Or if my son rents a property and the rent is too high (already) for him to rent it alone, if he sublets a room to a housemate will he then have to pay the fee also? The landlord will have to raise the rent to include the $175 fee.
To go to an even more ridiculous extreme, what if two people are partnered but not married? If they don’t file a joint tax return are we then going to charge the home owner for their lover? Where does the intrusion stop?
If you really want to help the poor and undereducated, the City of Lakewood should hire a Landlord Tenant Coordinator. The City of Tacoma has one. She is kept very busy answering all the technical questions that tenants in trouble have. While the Washington State Landlord Tenant Law is fairly straight forward, people with less education often need help with navigating the code. The tenant having trouble calls the Landlord Tenant Coordinator and says “Hey I have no hot water and my heater doesn’t work.” The Coordinator then calls City Code Enforcement who then starts a case, and both the Landlord Tenant Coordinator and the Code Enforcement Officer do an inspection together. This takes care of the problem landlords and doesn’t punish the good landlords.
Just to charge people to rent their homes so the City can get their foot in the door to look inside is intrusive. The State has already written a good code. It is there to punish the bad players.
To add to Joe’s point, the fee for renting a house in Tacoma has gone up from $72 to $80 and now $90. It appears the motivation for the City of Lakewood is not entirely helping the poor. It appears that cost recovery for implementation is not exactly enough. At $175 this looks like revenue generation.
It has been my experience that this is probably just an exercise in futility. That all City Councils (not just Lakewood) just go through the exercise of notifying the public when they have already made up their minds what they plan to do. Keep in mind, Telling Grandma, I know you are in a nursing home and that the house you are renting is the most beautiful one in the neighborhood. You need to give the city $175 for keeping your house occupied. Ugh…that is the worst conversation to have.
I feel like the best we can hope for are exemptions for the students and the elderly. Basically the council is saying we are coming into your house and there is nothing you can do about it. We will see you soon and we will be taking your 4th amendment rights with us when we get there.
Linda Bullock says
I too, agree with Joe – I’m retired military and have been renting homes across the U.S. (and Hawaii) since 1992.
A reference to San Francisco was made in an earlier letter I read, about the city’s (SF) desire to clean up and make way for a more desirable clientele. The “Operation Clean -Up” that ensued was recently televised on an HBO special – where rents were driven through the roof to a dollar amount that only the wealthy could afford.
So adding yet ANOTHER program for housing inspection(s) where five are already in place, screams of overkill. Or like what J. Adkins said, “Revenue generation.”
Joseph Boyle says
Thank you for taking time to make so many intelligent and salient points. You bring into the discussion several issues that did not occur to me.
During the 1980s and 1990s my family hosted 9 foreign students related to foreign exchange programs affiliated with Charles Wright Academy and Pacific Lutheran University. Our home and our backgrounds were vetted by the educational institutions prior to our being approved as guest parents.
If the City of Lakewood had their proposed R.I.P. in place, we would have said no to the foreign exchange students. It is tough enough to find qualified families willing to open their homes to exchange students without the City of Lakewood making it even more difficult.
The unintended consequences of snaring good citizens in programs originally established because of a few bad property owners might well be homeless foreign exchange students.
Linda Bullock says
Revenue Generation = Un(Intended) Consequences.
Sean Graver says
The documents found on the city’s website show that research was done with other cities, but not with actual tenants and property owners. That might be an important constituency to consider.
With that in mind, perhaps the RIP proposal could be put on the shelf for a year while a group of private landlords and tenants help create a much lower or no-cost solution to use the 5 existing programs to solve the problems that city officials believe are the most critical.
That gives the community a chance to solve the problem without dismissing all of the work that was done by city employees to create a 6th one.
Renters Rights says
Great Article… we are experiencing the same issues in federal heights, colorado. Although the program is already implemented here, but we are fighting back, and it will be changed soon. Here is our info below if you want to reach out.