Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) rental inspection criteria are not good enough for the City of Lakewood.
If you thought a THA inspection would satisfy Lakewood’s Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) standards and exempt your property from yet additional inspections, not to mention fees and potentially substantial bring-up-to-code costs, you thought wrong.
In a recent exchange of emails between a Lakewood landlord and the City of Lakewood, despite verbiage on the latter’s website exempting rentals that (a) receive government funding; and (b) are inspected at least every three years; and (c) a copy of those inspections provided the City of Lakewood – satisfying those three stipulations are not sufficient.
Three out of four will win you most contests, but failing the rather arbitrary judgement of the fourth criteria can do you in: (d) “The inspection is substantially equivalent to the inspection required by RHSP (determined by the Director).”
Citing an example, “the Director” wrote that THA does not include exhaust duct location. Lakewood’s RHSP does.
Is “specific house number size” in the THA? No. Is it in Lakewood’s RHSP? Yes.
Window glazing criteria? No, in the THA. Yes – of course – in the RHSP.
Minimum room height and width? No, THA. Yes, RHSP.
There’s more, much more listed by the City’s spokesperson but these are “some of the major differences, not all of the differences, but they are some of the larger issues that an HQS inspection does not cover.”
These, and the others, are evidently all substantial enough however to require Lakewood’s inspection over, above, and despite the inspection administered by a government different than Lakewood’s.
Which is possibly the latitude – changing the rules of the game – City Attorney Heidi Wachter had in mind when at the July 5, 2016 Public Hearing on the RHSP she said, “By using a broad grant of authority instead of a very specific detailed authorization, the ordinance gives the city the ability to tailor the program as we do the inspections.”
Somehow, “exhaust duct location” and the “intolerable conditions” – also described as “scary” – per councilmember’s descriptions of why the RHSP was necessary, fail not only to be related, but serve to rather frustrate reason.
Perhaps this is why the State of Washington Landlord Tenant Act – which covers, in great detail, every nook and cranny of every corner of the rental issue, safety included, encapsulating every possible question a landlord or tenant might have – was, like the Tacoma Housing Authority’s criteria, overlaid instead by Lakewood’s own version.
Said Lakewood: “The HQS inspection (THA) focuses primarily upon making sure the systems in place are safe, decent and sanitary while the RHSP inspection looks to ensure the systems in place meet specific codes in place at the time and meet very specific requirements.”
Though billed as a safety program, Lakewood’s inspections now rather very much appear as a ‘bait-and-switch’ code enforcement program affecting nearly 15,000 rentals in in the city.
Perhaps this is what the RHSP was about all along, less a safety issue as a code issue.