The city will pay $211,000 to reimburse landlords.
Garbage fees will go up to cover the city’s losses in having illegally collected fees for its Rental Inspection Program.
The court order chastised the city for demanding information from landlords to which the city was not entitled and required the city to discontinue the annual registration payment.
Hence the 1,403 checks that were mailed last week.
In addition to the court ruling, the state governor has weighed in, agreeing with the realtor’s association that the rental inspection program “gave city building inspectors too much arbitrary power” and that “building inspectors should instead focus on a relatively small group of bad landlords.”
When the governor signed the law essentially making it impossible for the city to continue inspecting and licensing all rental properties in the city, the pen the governor used to write his name was given to the one who lead the opposition to the city’s intrusive rental inspections.
Proudly displaying the pen, he said of the victory, “I’m a big fan of small government.”
When pens are handed out in Lakewood, Washington when a similar verdict is reached, many more than one will be necessary to distribute to honor all those who, like John Fisher, in Wausau, Wisconsin, or those in Milwaukee cited in the cases above – fought city hall, and won.
With the publication of this article, an even 100 missives have been written since the Lakewood City Council first contemplated two years ago joining the ranks of cities across the state and the country who have enacted – and some since retracted through court and legislative decisions – ordinances demanding compliance with government- and government-approved inspectors inserted into the heretofore private and protected spaces called home.
Also with the publication of this article, readers are just days away from – speaking of the power of the pen – deciding if the incumbents, Jason Whalen, Mary Moss, John Simpson, and Mike Brandstetter, all of whom voted for the Rental Inspection Program (RIP) should be returned to serve on the Lakewood City Council where, ostensibly, they are elected to represent you.
All challengers, on the other hand, have made it clear their opposition to the RIP.
The power of the pen. It’s in your hands. Vote accordingly by November 7.
Betsy Tainer says
Skip the agenda and go straight to the Meeting Packet.
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE.
David Wilson says
The City of Beloit belewit. Lakewood knows better.
Waste of time.
Mark Pfeiffer says
I, too, am among the ranks of “small government” proponents, but Lakewood landlords don’t seem to be doing their part in eradicating Lakewood’s slums. I really don’t understand why landlords shouldn’t be subject to the same level of oversight that restaurateurs are held to. Tenants don’t always have the same ability to register disgust with their accommodations as do restaurant patrons with their food experience.
David Anderson says
It is a fair observation concerning landlords that they should be subject to standards that, in their own interest, protect their investment while at the same time providing decent living conditions for their tenants.
When those standards are not upheld there is recourse for the tenant by which to rectify the situation as abundantly set forth in the Landlord-Tenant Act.
The Lakewood City Council considered, briefly, communicating to landlords and tenants alike, citywide, their respective rights and responsibilities. But rather than “instituting a robust tenant/landlord outreach educational program” they instead recommended hiring a director to orchestrate the Rental Inspection Program at two-and-a-half-times the salary of the average household income in Lakewood; employing an assistant at $50,000; purchasing a new car at $30,000; and have already spent one-quarter-million dollars just on the software to support the program.
It’s ironic and best, deceitful at worst, that the Lakewood City Council not once referenced probably the best resource by which to resolve landlord-tenant disputes – the Northwest Justice Center – until after Ordinance No. 644 was passed. Now, on the city website, tenants and landlords are referred to a link to that document.
Further exacerbating the damage to credibility and transparency, Lakewood City staff presented to the council on the night of July 5, 2016 a newscast by KIRO’s Jesse Jones concerning a problem property in Lakewood. The transcript accompanying the original airing of Jones’ investigation on March 15 has this statement, made by Jones:
“If you want the best document on Landlord/Tenant Law check out the Northwest Justice Center.”
Lakewood made no reference to the existence of that document, until now.
Neither did Lakewood City staff that night of July 5 include Jones’ statement as to what viewers can do should they find themselves in similar situations.
Betsy Tainer says
Check the Association of Washington Cities legislative agenda for this coming year… you may find a copy of it on the City of University Place Meeting Packet for tonight… http://www.cityofup.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/City_Clerk/CouncilMeetingPackets/2017/11-06-17_RM2.pdf page 186…
“3) Additional flexibility with existing tools such as making the
optional sales tax authority for affordable housing a council
It WAS the state that gave authority to the City of Lakewood to institute this program. Granted, it was the City of Lakewood, or rather, the Lakewood City Council who chose to implement such an intrusive program.
A lot happens at City Council level that directly impacts our lives. It’s ever so critical that people become more aware of their local issues and VOTE. Tomorrow evening is the deadline. People, please, vote and do it responsibly. Local issues impact your/our lives DIRECTLY and lately more then ever. Affordable housing starts at your local city council chambers: TBD (Transportation Benefit District), Utility Taxes (PC Sewer, as well as rates paid for all utilities, to include you cell, cable, phone, gas, water, electric, and garbage), garbage billing increases, Surface Water Management Rates, etc., etc., etc., and so forth. Let’s don’t forget Sound Transit, where Mary Moss (Lakewood) and Kent Keel (University Place) both serve on the board for Sound Transit and made no effort to address the recent tax increases.
Let’s have real, thinking people on City Council NOW to protect our interests.
File a complaint with the ACLU and other entities about the raise in garbage prices to cover the losses from this blatantly illegal boondoggle. The ACLU has already been notified about the program itself, but not the intended misappropriation from the new garbage bills.
File your complaint at: https://action.aclu.org/secure/legal-help-aclu-washington
Remember the names of those involved. Although they were warned, they chose to waste taxpayer’s money on a program commonly known to have been ruled unconstitutional all over the country. Now YOU have to pay more to cover their poor management decisions.
Jason Whalen says
In typical fashion, the author uses misleading and sensational titles (“Rental Inspection Refund Checks are in the Mail”) to suggest that the City of Lakewood is somehow running afoul of state law, when the contrary is the truth. One must first click on the hyperlink of the word “city” to learn that the article refers to the City of Beloit, Wisconsin, where that City’s rental permit system became illegal AFTER the Wisconsin legislature passed new legislation.
In 2010, Washington’s legislature enacted Substitute Senate Bill 6459, codified as RCW 59.18.125 (part of Washington’s Residential Landlord Tenant Act), which expressly authorized the power for local municipalities to require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection as a business license condition. A local municipality, however, may not enact an ordinance requiring a certificate of inspection unless the ordinance complies with this section.
Lakewood’s ordinance was specifically drafted to comply with current state law. Lakewood has gone to great efforts to make this program as positive and instructive as possible, rather than “punitive” or “illegal” as the author continues to suggest.
The policy goal is not only to improve the overall health and safety standards for rental housing in this City, but also to ensure that neighborhoods do not suffer undue blight when some landlords continue to do nothing to maintain their properties. A rising tide lifts all boats (and property values).
This Council takes its role seriously and debated the viability and details of this program for some time before voting (6-1) to move forward. Staff has since spent hundreds of hours working on this program to make it as user-friendly and “easy” for landlords as possible. At $12 a unit ($1 a month), Council has attempted to make the financial burden modest, electing at this time to subsidize the program and its start-up costs with monies from the General Fund.
Can we please all of the people all of the time? No.
Does leadership at times require making a judgment call for what one believes is in the best interests of the City as a whole? Yes.
For me, I have represented landlords and property managers in this community for the past 24 years of my legal career. I would wager to bet that I have spent more time in court on landlord-tenant issues than most reading this article. I have been a landlord myself. Not one of my clients has ever been labeled as a “slum lord.” Nonetheless, I was willing to take a broader view of the needs of my community, over my own self-interest as a landlord’s attorney, and voted in favor of a program that has the solid potential of making a positive difference in the lives of many Lakewood residents–landlords, tenants, and neighbors alike. Only time will tell, but I am willing to give it a solid effort.
If some commenters don’t believe this program was the earnest outcome of “thinking people on City Council,” then they simply don’t know what they are talking about–and certainly don’t know or understand the hearts and minds of those Council members involved. We can agree to disagree, but don’t question the integrity of my vote.
To the author who loves to draw tortured metaphors and analogies–let me offer one. In Aesop’s Fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a shepherd boy repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking wolves are attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf.
The moral? At some point, continued stretches of the truth and cries of wolf (or that the sky is falling–as communicated through “100 missives”) will result in the villagers’ collective disbelief and civic disengagement when issues need solid debate, constructive feedback and, when necessary, a change of policy direction.
From my humble perspective, this Council IS a “thinking” Council and works very hard, in a collaborative fashion, to make good policy decisions for the benefit of this City. Will we get it right all of the time? Likely not. But we will continue the effort to move the ball forward for this community, on many fronts, with your constructive and honest feedback.
Samuel Croxall, an Anglican churchman, writer and translator, when referencing political alarmism, asked: “When we are alarmed with imaginary dangers in respect of the public, till the cry grows quite stale and threadbare, how can it be expected we should know when to guard ourselves against real ones?”
City of Lakewood
David Anderson says
Finally, a City Councilmember responds. For a publication that has a readership of 6,000 and 20,000 hits daily, speaking of “good questions” – what took our elected representatives so long?
There was of course the “Op-ed” piece by Councilmembers Bocchi and Brandstetter this past September 13 but that was the 81st article (out of 100), and the only article by elected representatives here, on this topic.
So, perhaps a hopeful sign that in the future, divisive issues as the RIP has become, would receive, sooner than later, something – anything – by way of substance from elected representatives whose voice, one would think, on such matters can and should be heard and points debated.
Rather than the public waiting, and waiting . . . and waiting for our elected officials to in fact address – where the readers are – issues that do indeed need “solid debate, constructive feedback and, when necessary, a change of policy direction.”
Not, Whalen, after the fact.
Speaking of “misleading” the public, what shall we call what happened the night of July 5, 2016?
That is the night the city council had every opportunity to state clearly, and fully, and air completely the Jesse Jones KIRO investigative report as it originally was released to the public March 16. There, in the full report, Jones provides details on how to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.
Lakewood didn’t show that part.
Attorney Whalen states that RCW 59.18.125 “expressly authorized the power for local municipalities to require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection as a business license condition.”
The fact of the matter is, “Local municipalities may require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection as a business license condition.” Cities are allowed, but not mandated to do what Lakewood has done.
As another could-have, should-have, and to further confound the issue, the Lakewood City Council could have “instituted a robust tenant/landlord outreach educational program” but instead recommended hiring a director to orchestrate the Rental Inspection Program at two-and-a-half-times the salary of the average household income in Lakewood; employing an assistant at $50,000; purchasing a new car at $30,000; and have already spent one-quarter-million dollars just on the software to support the program.
That being the case, how can Whalen’s statement that Lakewood has gone to great efforts to make this program as positive and instructive as possible” be true given the council jettisoned that very opportunity to be in fact “instructive”?
And while it may be true that “$12 a unit ($1 a month),” is “modest”, most certainly one-quarter-of-a-million dollars for a software program to support the program is anything but modest.
John Simpson says
Nicely put and well-written, Mr. Whalen.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, if one doesn’t read Mr. Anderson’s articles on the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) in the Suburban Times, one could be uninformed. However, if one does read Mr. Anderson’s RHSP articles, one is almost always misinformed.
Twain’s observation is most true in reading Mr. Anderson’s latest comments about Lakewood’s Rental Housing Safety Program and how he alleges the program violates state law.
Mr. Anderson has made Mr. Twain’s point.
As Mr. Whalen’s letter clearly points out, this City Council thought long and hard about the RHSP before passing it, and the Council made darn sure that it acted within state law.
As Mr. Anderson has pointed out ad nauseum, I and five of my colleagues voted for this program, and we believe it will make a positive impact on our City.
Before I made my vote I researched the topic; I listened to all points of view; and I believe I made an informed decision to pass the RHSP based on the law and the desire to make Lakewood a more desirable locale in which to live.
Isn’t this what we all want?
City of Lakewood
David Anderson says
My reply to you Councilmember Simpson, is to repeat all that I shared with Whalen. Please see above.
Betsy Tainer says
Wow! That was certainly interesting. I really don’t see where the boy that cried wolf fits in here AT ALL.
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Boyle are performing a community service on this topic BECAUSE it’s a blatant violation of at least two of our NATIONAL constitutional rights. They have pointed out numerous court cases throughout the country, where similar programs were found to be illegal and a clear violation of our rights.
I attended one of the dog and pony shows that the city put on regarding this program nearly a full year before the vote. The council chambers were nearly full of people. Nearly every one of them spoke up against the program. There was ONE exception. One lady who was there as a representative of some non-profit organization that addresses housing issues for the underprivileged. Yes, I was there and I spoke. I was grimy from head to toe and I had my tool box… weeks into a remodel and improvements on my Lakewood duplex… it’s not an uncommon look for me. I’ve been managing my own rental properties for 20 years now. You’ll find me as a write-in vote for Mr. Brandstetter’s seat, compliments of one of my tenants there.
Listening, researching, questioning and, yes, THINKING, and occasional READING are essential qualities that are desired in our city council members.
With the city of Lakewood already up to its eyeballs in law suits one might THINK that the city would heed the warning signs, do some research and think about the possible consequences of their actions.
$12/unit is offered for early signers… weak minded persons, as one reader suggested, to entice compliance. It does not address the cost of inspection or the cost of repairs and improvements and re-inspection(s) to gain compliance and the coveted occupancy permit.
This program is a costly mistake from start to finish. If it does ‘succeed’ as you suggest, Mr. Whalen, and I see very little hope of that, as most of the downtrodden properties that I see throughout Lakewood do appear to be owner occupied, it will only serve to eliminate rental housing as investors will chose a more favorable market, eliminate ‘affordable’ housing altogether and those landlords who currently rent substandard housing WILL find a way to dodge the program and/or fly under your radar.
This program is a perfect example of poor stewardship of our tax dollars and there is virtually nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. IF you had been following this topic and reading the articles and comments and links and THINKING you would most certainly agree with me.
That’s a lot of “feel good” justification supporting what amounts to a tenant and landlord harassment and invasion of privacy program. The $12 for the first year is a great ploy aimed at the weak minded. I would hope most see it for what it is and that $12 fee wont last past the first year. I believe the council is betting the low initial cost will be offset by the numerous $250 re inspection fees that they intend to manufacture/collect in order to cover up the excessive cost over runs.
Instead of directly addressing the problem children, lets punish all the children and make them prove that they are indeed good kids.
For some reason I want to be quote Shakespeare right now…
Stephen in Steilacoom! says
I am not sure I understand what this is all about really… If one doesn’t want to deal with landlord/tenant issues, one should simply sell his properties and move out of Lakewood. No one is forcing an owner to stay and do business in Lakewood, right? For example, all the celebrities who promised to leave the USA if President Trump was elected are still welcome to leave (only wishful thinking, I know) and, many of us are waiting for them to fulfill their promise. America is a land of opportunity. Sometimes that opportunity is found elsewhere. If you live and own property in Lakewood, you have agreed, by staying, to play by Lakewood’s rules, even if they change the rules in the middle of the game.
Next up: City of Lakewood rent control.
You’ve sold your rental in Lakewood, supply and demand kicks in and rents go up. In addition one will have the additional expenses incurred due to the City’s Tenant Landlord Harassment program (have you seen the inspection list?) that will be passed on to the tenant. Several owners I have talked to are indicating they will add the cost of their time involved in handling the RIP process when setting their rental rates.
The City of Lakewood’s unintended consequence is that rents are no longer affordable for the middle and lower income families. No worries. There are some nice overpasses and forested areas scattered around Lakewood that will provide for nice shelter. There are also an abundance of shopping carts available at the Town Center. I’m also thinking there is room for a tent city outside city hall. Good to know the city council has plenty of solutions for the problems created with their heavy handed RHSP.
David Wilson says
Voice of reason from Jason Whalen!
To the author who loves to draw tortured metaphors and analogies, waste of time!