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Originally published October 1, 2012 at 5:23 PM | Page modified October 1, 2012 at 6:08 PM

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Seattle City Council OKs registration, inspection of rentals

The City Council Monday approved a program to require registration and inspection of all rental property, beginning in 2014.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a program to require registration and inspection of all rental property, beginning in 2014.

Tenant advocates and landlord groups agreed that renters, who make up about half of all Seattle residents, have a right to healthful and safe living conditions.

"The complaint-based system presently being used by Seattle residents is only effective for people who have the resources to engage it. Many renters have little or no resources," said Aileen Gagney, program manager with the American Lung Association, which supported the measure.

But some landlord organizations told the council they remained concerned about the costs of the program and the potential for a "mega-bureaucracy" of rental inspectors, registration requirements and penalties, which could start at $150 per day for landlords who refuse to correct problems.

"This program could grow at many times the rate of inflation. The City Council needs to monitor it closely or the costs will get out of hand," said Jamie Durkan, with the Rental Housing Association.

Under the legislation, all properties with 10 or more rental units will have to register with the city by July 1, 2014; from five to nine units by Dec. 31, 2014, and from one to four units by Dec. 31, 2016.

Property owners initially will complete a checklist certifying that the housing meets city health and safety codes. All rental units will be inspected within 10 years and, once inspected, will be on a five-year cycle for reinspection.

A stakeholders group composed of tenant advocates and landlords will meet over the next year to set fees for registration, which is supposed to cover the city's program costs.

"This is watershed legislation," said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. "People have a right to good housing."

The vote was 5-0 in favor. Councilmembers Mike O'Brien and Bruce Harrell did not vote because they own rental property. Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Richard Conlin were absent.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @lthompsontimes.

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