Olympia to Require Registration and Inspection for Residential Rental Properties

Under the Residential Landlord Tenant Act, cities may require landlords to obtain a certificate of inspection as part of their business licensing or rental property registration requirements. See RCW 59.18.125. Olympia recently enacted local legislation requiring landlords operating in Olympia to register their properties and permit inspection. Inspection and registration requirements can present roadblocks for Washington landlords seeking to evict tenants, making compliance with these requirements important. As such, additional information regarding Olympia’s new requirements and the similar requirements of other cities throughout Washington is outlined below.

Certificate of Inspection

Acquiring a certificate of inspection generally requires either scheduling a city “qualified inspector” or hiring a third-party qualified inspector to perform an inspection of your rental properties on a recurring basis (in the case of Olympia, every five years).

A “qualified inspector” is a United States department of housing and urban development certified inspector; a Washington state licensed home inspector; an American society of home inspectors certified inspector; a private inspector certified by the national association of housing and redevelopment officials, the American association of code enforcement, or other comparable professional association as approved by the local municipality; a municipal code enforcement officer; a Washington licensed structural engineer; or a Washington licensed architect. RCW 59.18.030(26). Olympia’s inspection fees are estimated to be $25 – $35 per unit for multifamily properties and $125 – $280 for single family homes, in addition to registration and licensing fees. See https://www.olympiawa.gov/community/housing___homelessness/rental_registry.php.

What is Inspected?

The number of units that must be inspected depends on the total number of rentable units at a location. Only one unit needs to be inspected if the property has 1 – 4 units. If the property has 5 – 20 units, 20 percent of units, up to a maximum of 4 units, must be inspected. If the property has more than 20 units, 20 percent of units, up to a maximum of 50 units, must be inspected. RCW 59.18.125(6).

In most cases, landlords also must provide notice to all their tenants at the complex regarding the inspection. See RCW 59.18.125(5). Some municipalities, such as Olympia, require landlords to use a city-provided form for this notice. At the time of this post, Olympia has not yet issued its form notice.

The inspectors will examine a long list of items at each of the units chosen for inspection, including exterior building conditions, interior building conditions, fire safety, plumbing and hot water, and heating and electrical. Olympia’s current inspection checklist listing all items that must be inspected for rental properties in their jurisdiction can be found here: https://cms7files.revize.com/olympia/Document_center/Community/Housing%20&%20Homelessness/Rental-Registry/DRAFT-Rental-Inspection-Checklist.pdf

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The penalties for non-compliance vary by jurisdiction, but can include denial, suspension, or revocation of a business license, a civil infraction with monetary fees, relocation assistance for tenants living in non-compliant units, and a prohibition on a landlord’s right to evict tenants. See, e.g., Olympia Municipal Code 5.82.070; Auburn Municipal Code Sections 5.22.120 and 5.23.070(A); Seattle Municipal Code 22.214.075. Olympia also has a proposed amendment to its code that would enact additional penalties if finalized. See https://cms7files.revize.com/olympia/Document_center/Community/Housing%20&%20Homelessness/Tenant-Protections/OMC5.82-Draft-Amendments.pdf (Section 5.82.160).

Timing and Exceptions

In Olympia, as of March 1, 2024, landlord’s must begin registering their rental properties with the city; however, the inspection requirements do not begin until January 1, 2025.

Other cities also require rental registration and/or have inspection programs, including without limitation Aberdeen, Bellingham, Burien, Kent, Lakewood, Mountlake Terrace, Olympia, Pasco, Prosser, Renton, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Tukwila.

Many of these cities have exceptions which do not require rental inspection for certain types of residential rental properties, such as owner-occupied properties, newly constructed properties, and properties already subject to regularly scheduled inspections to comply with Housing and Urban Development requirements.

If you have questions about whether your rental properties may be subject to registration and inspection requirements, or whether your rental properties are in compliance with local registration and inspection requirements, please contact attorney Nate Close or any of the eviction attorneys at Montgomery Purdue PLLC.

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