On September 27, 2017, at 6:00p Lakewood hosted their first Rental Housing Safety Plan (RHSP) Landlord Training Session. I went undercover, posing as a BTPO, (Big Time Property Owner). City staff spotted me. I should have worn a wig and dark glasses.
Three Lakewood officials, Mr. Jeff Gumm, Program Manager – Housing Division, (T: 253-983-7773 E: email@example.com), Ms. Shannon Kelley-Fong, Assistant to the City Manager (T: 253-983-7717 E: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The best number to call for RHSP matters is 253-983-7850. City staff was generous in making themselves available to you should you have questions or need help with the RHSP.
In 2010, Lakewood’s population was 58,163, but that was before Billy-Bob Jones was arrested. Now that Billy-Bob is doing time, Lakewood’s population is 58,162 citizens.
One of the meeting hosts informed us that there are approximately 27,000 living units in Lakewood. Of the 27,000 living units, 14,000 are rental properties. 80% of the rentals are multi-family complexes which equate to 11,200 duplexes, triplexes, four-plexes and apartments. 20% are single-family rentals which equate to 2,800 homes.
With those statistics in mind, it is interesting, but not surprising, to note that with a population of 58,162 only 30 citizens showed up for the first Landlord Training Session.
14,000 rentals X $12 rental registration fee = $168,000 worth of fees to run the program.
Here is what I learned.
The new updated name for the program is Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP)
The city designed the entire Residential Rental Inspection Program to be paperless. Everything can be handled online including paying fees. If a property owner is not connected to the internet, the City is making available a computer kiosk on the 2nd floor of City Hall. There will be a team of four trained staff members available to help you conduct your RHSP business.
It was obvious that Lakewood is proud of their paperless system as they should be.
Lakewood provides conflicting information regarding the timeline for registering rental properties. Most Lakewood documents indicate that the time frame to register falls between October 1 and November 30, 2017. That seems to be inaccurate by a day in that the website will not be up and running until October 2, 2017. I recommend not wasting time and effort trying to register on October 1, 2017.
The official RHSP information brochure creates a conflict and point of confusion by stating, “By January 1, 2018, all rental housing units must be registered…”. If you want to minimize government hassle, I recommend that those of you who plan to comply, register during the tighter time frame of October 2, 2017, and November 30, 2017.
Good news. The annual registration fee is not $100. City council has approved the following Registration Fees: Single-family homes – $12 per / unit. Multifamily properties – $12 per unit. That is only $1.00 per month or an $88 savings over the original registration fee projections.
It should be noted that what appears to be carefully chosen exact language reads, “For one year (2017/2018 the City Council has approved the following fees:”. Being the optimist I am, I am guessing that means in 2019, City Council might vote to reduce the fee from $12.00 to $3.00 per unit. If I have any takers on that concept, I have some investment bonds I would like to show you for the 3rd Narrows Bridge we plan to build next summer.
The first inspection, if done by a city inspector, is free the first year.
Each rental unit will be inspected one time every 5 years.
Lakewood originally stated the RHSP planned as an effort to eliminate slum conditions in a minority number of properties. Now the City has switched to marketing the idea as a “SAFETY” program. Safety is a cozy word to hide behind. It is difficult to be critical of a safety program until the bureaucratic smoke clears and you can see it for what it really is.
Lakewood will use the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code which Lakewood promotes as a simple code.
Lakewood has developed a series of three Rental Housing Safety Program Inspection Checklists. (1) Single-family Checklist. (2) Multi-Family Checklist (duplex & larger) Part 1 General Property & Common Areas. (3) Multi-Family Checklist (duplex & larger) Part 2- Individual Rental Unit(s). The forms will be available online and at City Hall.
I recommend that property owners obtain a copy of the checklists early-on as a part of an evaluation process to determine if any particular property will pass or fail the inspection.
I reviewed the Single Family Checklist and found it to be fairly reasonable. Most of the requirements are condition issues any good property owner would responsibly manage even without government jamming bureaucratic dictates down their throat. Some property owners may get tangled up when they get to the plumbing and electrical sections.
The meeting focused strongly on concepts such as: We are just doing this for safety. We are a loving bunch of city bureaucrats who will not harm you. Our staff will be reasonable including waiving re-inspection fees for certain situations. Landlords and renters, there is no problem. Other cities have similar programs. Don’t worry. We are here to help.
Lakewood’s sales pitch reminded me of the presentation Jim Jones used to get his followers drink the poison Kool-Aid in the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.
Lakewood is making it easy to drink the Kool-Aid. A low $12 registration fee to start. Free property inspections. Promises to possibly waive the $125 re-inspection fee. Hey, where is the harm?
If you love this new “safety” program, be sure to vote for the incumbent city council persons in this next election.