Seattle to decide on mandatory rental inspections

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 30, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 30 at 5:40 PM

Dr. Corey Snelson is a neurobiologist at the University of Washington, so she knows a thing or two about petri dishes. She says she realized she was living in one when her trusty dog Clovis started getting sick.

“She was my Basset Hound in the coal mine," said Snelson.

Snelson discovered toxic mold from an earlier flood in her University District apartment. City workers found 9 pages of violations.

“It was disgusting,” she said.

It’s a very similar story for thousands of renters across the city.

“I've heard horrific things landlords will do,” said Snelson.

The renters rights group Tenants Union says some 27,000 people in Seattle live in dangerous rental housing.  On Monday, the City Council votes on whether to mandate inspections for all Seattle rentals. Currently, no such rule exists.

"By adopting a new systematic and proactive program the City of Seattle will take a giant step toward eradicating substandard housing and holding accountable the slumlords in our community," said Tenants Union’s Jonathan Grant.
  
Landlords would pay to fund the program. How much is still uncertain.

But property owner Chris Benis says one thing is certain.

“All the costs get passed on to the renters.”

Benis worries that inspection costs could raise rents and if units get closed down there may be no place for low-income folks to go.  Plus, he says the plan doesn't address the countless houses that rent out rooms -- which are the source of many of the worst offenders.

“The city knows where my 8 unit building is, but they don't know about the house that's been carved up into 8 individual rooms. Unless the community is part of identifying those properties, they're gonna be missed,” said Benis.

About 5%-10% of Seattle’s 42,000 rentals units are believed to be unsafe. The city council vote is scheduled for Monday at 2:00 p.m. For more information on renter right visit www.tenantsunion.org

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