Bellingham still figuring out registration, inspection pieces of rental safety program

A rental safety program requiring landlords to register their rental properties could go live this summer, with information going out to property owners in the mail this spring, according to an early program outline presented to City Council Monday, Jan. 12.

In an update to council Monday afternoon, Planning Director Rick Sepler presented roughly the dates that staff members plan to roll out the early stages of a rental registration and inspection ordinance council approved on Dec. 15.

Council still has not taken the third and final vote needed to pass the ordinance, opting to wait until staff can compile the specific costs expected to go along with both registration and inspection.

Though the program outline in Monday’s meeting materials stated council could get estimates for registration and inspection fees on Jan. 26, Sepler said that had changed — it likely will be February before the estimates for both elements can be put together as staff make sure the program is as efficient as possible.

“The hard costs for (registration) software we know,” Sepler said. “Inspection itself is taking a little longer, and as such the fees for both registration and inspection are taking longer.”

Still, with the registration element mostly hammered out, staff plan to ask council for a city budget amendment to cover the costs of that part of the program on Jan. 26.

According to the outline, an informational webpage with resources for landlords and tenants is planned to go live on the city website in early March.

The city would then mail letters to all rental property owners of record in May to inform them they need to register. Starting July 1, all landlords would need to start registering their rentals before an Aug. 1 deadline.

The more controversial of the ordinance’s requirements — regular inspections for all rental units in the city — is still in the works. The outline does not include estimates for when that element of the ordinance might take effect or become enforceable.