At the July 5, 2016 Lakewood City Council Public Hearing concerning the proposed – and controversial – Rental Inspection Program (RIP), the prelude to public comment was a video by KIRO 7 News Investigative Reporter Jesse Jones involving a landlord/tenant complaint in the Laurel Gardens apartments located in the Woodbrook neighborhood-portion of Lakewood.
Ironically, according to Jesse’s contact page, he will not investigate landlord/tenant complaints:
“Except in extremely rare cases he will not investigate disputes between businesses, family law disputes, criminal issues, malpractice complaints, landlord/tenant complaints, or issues with employment/unemployment.”
So then how did the public airing of this “extremely rare case” on KIRO (March 16, 2016), and subsequent presentation at the public hearing (July 5, 2016), come about?
Beginning last year, but with accelerating emphasis since mid-February and March of this year, Lakewood is now in the final stages of implementing a required inspection of rentals – and there are 13,700 units in the city – with the vote of the City Council scheduled for July 18.
Though Lakewood has five programs already that deal variously with property concerns, the RIP would for the first time insert city-approved inspectors within private dwellings.
The tenant in Jesse Jones’ video complains about “mold and leaks everywhere” and acknowledges the problem to have existed since the previous December. She states that as a result of her complaint to management she was given a bucket and told to pay her rent – on time – even though the repairs were not made – on time.
Jesse wraps up his investigation by providing viewers – some 20,000 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 in similar situations.
Perhaps more ironic than Jones investigating a story he usually doesn’t but which story nevertheless educated literally tens-of-thousands of people in the process – appropriately categorized under “News You Can Use” – Lakewood’s RIP architects considered – briefly – “instituting a robust tenant/landlord outreach educational program” but instead recommended hiring a director to orchestrate RIP at two-and-a-half-times the salary of the average household income in Lakewood; and employing an assistant at $50,000; and purchasing a new car at $30,000.
And yet, as the potential educational component of Jones’ investigation demonstrates, 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.”
Which, of course, begs the question, ‘why is Lakewood preparing to launch a program at considerable cost – $175,000 annually, not to mention considerable angst – to solve a problem for which easily accessed solutions are already in place?’
That’s a question Sean Martin, External Affairs Director for the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA), also wants to know.
In in his article entitled “Local Government Updates – Trekking Across Washington,” for this July’s edition of “Update – The Rental Housing Industry News Journal,” Martin writes “Seattle isn’t the only area making noise, however, as we are seeing the City of Lakewood begin forward movement on a proposal to create a mandatory rental registration and inspections ordinance.”
Lakewood acknowledges following Seattle’s lead in its own version of RIP. And it’s Seattle where “the hits keep coming as Council continues to deal body blows to the rental housing industry,” Martin writes.
And it is Lakewood, Martin says, given where Seattle has gone, that “RHAWA continues to monitor, and will be submitting comments to Council opposing this issue.”
Post-script: If memory serves, the Jesse Jones video shown by the City on the night of July 5 was cut off abruptly thus eliminating the conclusion of the actual KIRO presentation which aired March 16. At the tail end of the latter, Jones shares what viewers can do should they find themselves in similar situations.
Lakewood doesn’t show that part.
Additionally, in the transcript that accompanies Jones’ March 16 account, there is this: “If you want the best document on Landlord/Tenant Law check out the Northwest Justice Center.”
Lakewood doesn’t reference that either.