It began as Rental Inspection Program, or RIP. The name was changed deleting the controversial ‘inspection’ and replaced with the more palatable ‘safety’ for Rental Housing Safety Program, or RHSP.
Now, a business license fee is being tacked on plus per-unit fees and giving no quarter to landlords whose property has only one rental verses those with hundreds.
“For example, a 100-unit apartment complex would be charged $60, and a landlord who owed five single family rental properties at different locations throughout the City would be charged $300.”
In the upcoming meeting of the Lakewood City Council (Nov.14), David Bugher, Assistant City Manager, will state as one of the reasons for recommending a flat business license fee of $60 with no differentiation of single-family rental properties from multi-family rental properties: “to maintain a list of existing businesses in the city (as it) can provide business contact information for the city public safety officials in the event of local emergencies” (p.22 of 105).
Lakewood doesn’t have a list already?
As a matter of fact, according to figures supplied by the City (p.36), 12,888 rentals included 2,479 vacant; 1,514 for rent; 293 for sale; and 136 occupied occasionally.
The City even listed the number of homes that were indwelt by migrant workers: one.
And where did the number 2,880 come from?
That’s the number of single-family rental properties the city says exists; and further the city says that number reflects 19 percent of the rental housing market share which alone generates $5.7 million in gross rental income; and it is then that multimillion-dollar-figure that is promoted as rationale by Bugher to the Council for charging single-family rental property owners the same rate as multi-family rental property owners.
It may not be equitable but it’s easier for the city says Bugher.
“Staff’s preference is to not use graduated fee structure (say $30 for single-family rental properties, or some other amount) since a base or flat fee is more efficient to administer.”
RIP was introduced by City staff to City Council February 21, 2015 (p.32).
Safety – then – while mentioned, appeared so almost in passing, certainly far less the focus as contrasted to the City’s desire to avoid being sued by its citizens. Seattle, for example, was cited by Lakewood has having lost in court for mandating government employees perform rental inspections. Pasco, on the other hand Lakewood said, was successful when sued given inspectors were only city-approved as opposed to city-employed.
Indeed, as opposed to safety, a good deal of the material presented to the Council February, 2015 concerned the definition of ‘inspector.’
Also at that February retreat, council members were told that “local governments may provide for a rental housing inspection program as a condition of business licensing” (p.33).
“May provide,” is not a requirement.
Lakewood didn’t have then – and still doesn’t have now or yet as it’s on the November 14 agenda – a business licensing program for rental property owners.
In other words what appears to have happened here perhaps describes how all onerous ordinances become law:
First, ensure, if you’re sued by your citizens, you’ll survive legally. Second, coat difficult-to-swallow pills with sweet-sugared terms like ‘safety’ thus helping the medicine go down. Third, assess fees, disregarding equity for the sake of efficiency.