Bellingham will again consider rental licensing, inspections in 2014

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 18, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - City Council is ready to take another look at proposals to set up a system to license and inspect apartments and rental houses in 2014.

The details of such a system are still sketchy, but on Monday, June 17, the council voted 6-0 to ask Mayor Kelli Linville to include a rental licensing and inspection system in her 2014 budget. Seth Fleetwood, the most outspoken opponent of a rental licensing system when the idea was voted down in 2011, was absent.

Jack Weiss, the council's most ardent rental licensing advocate, introduced the latest measure. Weiss said other cities have found that mandatory licensing and inspection of rental properties leads to a noticeable improvement in conditions for tenants, and weeds out problem properties that are unsafe.

Weiss also argued that renting property to residential tenants is a business, and all other businesses in the city are subject to licensing.

An ideal system would rely on self-inspection by most landlords, with spot checks to keep people honest, Weiss said. He added that in his view, the focus should be on educating landlords and tenants about rights and responsibilities, rather than on catching and penalizing violators.

Weiss said the cost of such a system to landlords has not yet been determined.

But the system likely would contain as-yet-undetermined licensing fees as well as penalties for violations, if and when such a system is approved by the council.

Perry Eskridge, government affairs director for the Whatcom County Association of Realtors, said the rental licensing system now envisioned by the council contains some good elements.

"I think you're on the right track," Eskridge told a council committee.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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