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Time to Audit Private Rental Inspections - Part II

By On
• In Bellingham,

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a case at 420 Lakeway Drive in which a rental unit that had passed inspection by a privately hired inspector in November 2016 had a plumber put his foot through the rotted bathroom floor several months later (Time to Audit Private Rental Inspections). Repairs are now being done on the property following an inspection by a city inspector. The unit must now pass a city inspection prior to its being made available once more for rental.

Now, we have a second rental unit located at 412 Lakeway Drive and owned by the same landlord whose inspection by a private inspector (possibly the same individual) is being brought into question. It appears that a serious water leak and subsequent mold that was reported to management just after the tenants moved in was not repaired, however, the private inspector passed the unit in November 2016. There were also reports to the property management, again prior to inspection, of rat infestation and of windows that were not operating properly. Here is a portion of the actual code enforcement complaint narrative provided to me by the mother of one of the tenants:

“[My daughter] moved in in September, 2016 and immediately discovered leaks and water intrusion in her room, the bathroom upstairs, the bathroom downstairs, the kitchen, among other areas in the home. My daughter, along with the other tenants, complained constantly to Lakeway Realty, only to be blown off, or they would eventually send someone over, but nothing was ever resolved. Shortly after they moved in, they discovered rats, but again this was ignored when they complained verbally. The ventilation in my daughter’s room wasn’t sufficient, and the fact they didn’t provide her with a working window/screen didn’t help matters. There were other windows through the house that also weren’t in working order. It’s now July, 2017, and these students are STILL dealing with bad ventilation, water intrusion, leaks, black mold and the health issues from being subjected to these conditions, as well as dealing with rats and the diseases they potentially carry. For these,and many other reasons, this house is uninhabitable, and should be condemned -not up for re-rental on 9/1/17 (as shown on their website), when these college kids vacate the day before on 8/31/17!... There is NO WAY this home can, nor should have passed any inspections, and certainly not within the time frame that my daughter was forced to reside there (September, 2016 - August, 2017).”

Again I call on the City Council to amend the rental inspection ordinance to require that private inspectors submit their inspection check sheets upon initial failure of a rental unit. The city also should perform random audits of rental unit inspections by a private inspector to avoid any chicanery and to verify performance of city authorized private inspection firms by municipal code inspectors.

About Dick Conoboy

Writer • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

James Colter

Jul 15, 2017

Just another impotent move when suggesting that City Council amends anything. They seem reticent at best to do their job(s). What makes you believe they will amend that which  they have already half-done? As my former brother-in-law/judge once quipped and his wife did needle work (in Latin) that is hanging on the Law Office wall ... ad petendam nothi ... loosely translated as Sue the Bastards! First, in small claims court ... no one gets to bring an attorney. When you win, even a small portion of rent paid, you are now open to begin the civil law suits that any ambulance chasing lawyer will take without up-front dollars. In my ten years, plus, since I moved to Washington, I have not yet found a government unit that is working for the people who put them there ... that’s us, folks! They all have the idea that THEY are the boss. Who determines their pay? Politician: the only job on this planet where the EMPLOYEE (that’s them) determines what the EMPLOYER (us again) will have to pay THEM; how much salary, work schedule, vacation, medical, etc. All of these are determined by THEM, then foisted on the taxpayer ... US again! Take it or else! Until we wrest control of our employees back into our hands, we will never get any sort of representative government.

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James Colter

Jul 15, 2017

As a former Home Inspector (Michigan) and Home Builder (Virginia) I can say with relative certainty (lacking hands on inspection) the above home/slum-unit is covered with siding which includes asbestos as the main ingredient. A wonderful natural resource sold as a fire retardant. Anyone out there read the MSDS on that stuff? Even movie makers, in spite of how well asbestos flakes mimic snow flakes, have stopped using this material. Most Slum Lords remediate by simply painting over the crap and charge above market rental fees ... “because they can”. See: Chapter 59.18 RCW: Residential Landlord Tenant Act Read this carefully ... If I were a betting man, I would bet that your land lord is in violation of more than one Section of this RCW. Compare the RCW with your copy of the written lease ... assuming you were provided with one. I was once presented a copy of my lease only to find out later, they “forgot” to issue copies of page 2 thru 5 of said lease agreement.

Sooooo, can anyone tell me why Bellingham is hiring independent contractors (or allowing them) to do housing inspections? Surely; if they can afford private contractors, they might afford the expense of hiring new staff instead.

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 15, 2017

Thanks,  James.  No guarantees with the city council amending the ordinance but it originally passed 7-0 so I think there are some real possibilities.

Bellingham is not hiring private inspectors.  All city inspectors are employees of the city.  The RCW on rental inspections allows landlords to hire private inspectors.  The RCW would have to be amended to change that.  The city does CERTIFY private inspectors and can take away that authorization for cause - like cheating. 

Asbestos siding is not an item on the inspection checklist.  I will send your comment to our code enforcement office. 

 

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Edward Bosteter

Aug 03, 2017

Lakeway Realty is what is known in the commodities industry as a “bucket shop”. I dealt with them exactly once and would never do business with them again. Slumlords of the worst ilk.

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