Council Updates Regulations of City's Residential Rental Housing
Lisa Gardner, City Council Communications Director, 509.625.6226
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 7:53 a.m.
On Monday night, Council considered updates to the City’s residential rental housing regulations. The original ordinance has been divided into two separate ordinances to garner broader Council support.
Ordinance C-36330, which passed unanimously, accomplishes the following:
- Codifies regulations supporting housing security to reduce homelessness;
- Establishes standards and enforcement mechanisms as they relate to rental housing;
- Establishes a residential rental registry and imposes a $15 per unit per year fee;
- Clarifies that current Washington State Law and the Spokane Municipal Code require landlords to have a business license for a $127 annual fee and make the licensing requirements more lenient for landlords who are simply renting out a room (or two) in the house they live in or are renting out an unattached accessory dwelling unit on their primary residential property since they would no longer be required to obtain a business license; and
- Ensures these additional resources collected through fees go directly into a Code Enforcement Fund. In other words, the business license fees paid by landlords will go directly into a fund that promotes the overall safety and habitability of rental housing.
- Allows for landlords offering below market cost rentals to low-income tenants to seek a waiver of the $15 annual fee by registering with the City’s affordable rental housing incentive program that CHHS will develop;
- Waives registration fees for non-profits;
- Allows the Community, Housing and Human Services department to coordinate with the Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion to establish a public-facing website, the digital link of which will be provided by landlords to their tenants, that identifies a variety of online resources for landlords and tenants, including tenant rights and responsibilities, a change of address form, and a voter registration form.
Ordinance C-36366, which passed 5-2, accomplishes the following:
- Streamlines and makes more affordable the process of obtaining rental housing by establishing portable background and credit checks, tenant relocation and legal services, and landlord mitigation programs;
- Requires landlords or property managers to self-inspect the unit(s) before renting them out and, by engaging in a lease, certify that they have performed the inspections and that their property complies with all the building codes, habitability requirements, and other relevant codes preexisting the City and State codes;
- Requires landlords or property managers to make all the necessary repairs to keep the unit in habitable condition as regulated by the City and State codes;
- Requires landlords or property managers to maintain all move-in and move-out inspection records for at least three years;
- Requires landlords, owners, or property managers to disclose the following to tenants:
- Information about whether the unit has had a history of mold, any remediation, and whether the landlord has been informed by past tenants of any health concerns related to mold;
- Any known history of methamphetamine manufacturing on the premises;
- Information about whether the property is actively for sale and in the event that the property is sold, they must provide all contact information for the new owner to tenants;
- Creates a portable background and credit check program to ensure landlords get the data they need to make an informed decision about a prospective tenant, while ensuring that prospective tenants are not unduly burdened by the need to pay multiple background and credit check fees;
- Ensures that additional resources collected through fees go directly into a Residential Rental Property Mitigation Fund, and a Legal Service and Relocation Fund. In other words, the business license fees paid by landlords will go directly into funds that support landlord-tenant relations and promote the overall safety and habitability of rental housing;
- Creates a private right of action for specified violations of the residential rental code; and
- Creates a process for tenants to terminate a rental agreement if a landlord fails to comply with the ordinance requirements.
“After over four years of public debate and comment, Spokane City Council has established an improved framework for rental relations in Spokane by supporting tenants and landlords in promoting habitable homes under the law without imposing new financial burdens,” said Council President Beggs. “The only increase in revenues is a $1.25/month charge per unit that will be used to provide improved services to tenants and landlords. Most importantly, the City’s Code Enforcement Department and the City’s Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion will have substantial new resources to promote the health and welfare of the entire rental community in Spokane.”
“We listened to landlords and tenants to balance the needs of both entities,” said Council Member Karen Stratton. “I am proud of the honest deliberation and collaboration from all involved. Landlords and tenants will benefit from additional services like mitigation and legal assistance. These issues deserve our time and attention, and I am grateful to all who participated.”
Council Members have hosted community conversations over several years, and particularly over the last few months, on the regulation of residential rental housing and have listened to landlords and tenants about how best to update City code to clarify expectations between the City, landlords, and tenants.
About the Spokane City Council
The City Council is the legislative body of the City of Spokane, which is home to more than 220,000 people and is located in the heart of the Inland Northwest. The City’s 2,000 employees strive to deliver efficient and effective services that facilitate economic opportunity and enhance the quality of life for all our citizens. For more information, visit SpokaneCity.org/CityCouncil/ and follow us @SpokaneCityCouncil on Facebook.