The Gap in Spokane’s Proposed Residential Tenancies Code

November 26, 2019 by Rob

On the morning of November 25th, I saw a post on social media that was shared several times by real estate professionals I know at a brokerage that is very community-minded. The post highlighted a lot of concern over a proposed residential tenancies code. I reviewed the proposed code and as someone that has been a landlord I felt like a lot of the content was reasonable, 90-day rent increase notice and reasonable limitations on the amount of a pet deposit sounds fine.

There was one line that was slipped in a section that was supposed to be about relocation assistance that was rent control plain and simple and felt pretty dishonest. That was in Section 2, and I think is what has most people worked up, but there is a hidden fiasco waiting in Section 4 that deals with housing quality standards (and inspections which is why I am speaking out about this). I understand the spirit of what when into this and I truly appreciate the work and intent. Unfortunately there is no way an inspector was consulted on the section dealing with inspections or it would have been written differently, because as written, if followed by the letter of the law 80% or better of those renting single-family properties would need to be evicted because the measure chosen as a standard was current building codes (which every house built prior to 2000 will probably fail). I sent a short video to the city council to highlight the problems and was encouraged by a respected, community-minded peer in the industry to share this with a broader audience.

I served for several years as a law enforcement officer and I know how this shakes out. When you write a bad law, that is too imposing and ambiguous, what happens is those enforcing the law (or code) then have to try to decide what is the spirit of the law (what were the objectives the community wanted). In the moment that individual is deciding do I impose the maximum penalty or do I look the other way, which creates an incredible amount of inconsistency in the application of the law. If you want to enforce housing quality standards you need better guidelines than the building codes.

There is really good intent with the proposed residential tenancies code but as it stands it’s not ready to be implemented, and we need to make sure our city council understands that. So please take a minute to thank them for their service, and ask them to spend a little more time on this before approving the residential tenancies code.


Written By Rob

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Selkirk Country offers a range of home inspection and general contracting services. We are uniquely adept to serving clients with turn-of-the-century or mid-century homes. We have a sound understanding of building science and embrace historic preservation. Through the inspetion process we're also able to support with additional services like radon detection and sew scope, eliminating the need to call out several specialist and saving our clients time and money.

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