Rental Conditions - A Real Estate Inspector’s ViewPermalink +
Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 10:26 am // Dick Conoboy
[Note: This article originally appeared on the blog Twilight Zoning in Bellingham]
Reality check. What do real estate inspectors find here in Bellingham when they conduct inspections for potential buyers of existing rental properties? Plenty, it seems.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a home inspector who has spent over twenty years in commercial and residential construction and the last ten years as an inspector of homes, both rental and owner-occupied units. This individual has thoroughly inspected hundreds of rentals - single family, duplexes, and various multi-unit apartment complexes. He stated that the conditions vary greatly due to the age and condition of the property.
In Bellingham he claims there are two distinct types of rental properties, rentals for college students and rentals for the general market. His experience is that often the college rentals are older homes converted to rented rooms where the renters share bathrooms and kitchens.
Overall he has discovered that the college rentals tend to be less well maintained with more reported findings such as:
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors removed
- Damaged electrical system
- Leaking plumbing systems
- Poor ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens causing mildew or mold
- Drywall, door, window or flooring damage
- Old heating systems that may cause carbon monoxide to leak in to the home
Similarly, he has experienced that rental units for the general population of renters are found with the following issues:
- Improperly installed or damaged exterior stairs or decks
- Leaking plumbing systems
- Lack of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in proper locations
- Lack of ventilation causing mildew or mold
- Electrical systems without GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption) protection
- Old heating systems that may cause carbon monoxide to leak in to the home
He also states that there are those landlords who buy a property, collect rent, and spend little money on repairs. In these cases, he continues, rent is often low and living conditions are poor. Renters do not report problems for fear that the rent will go up. The landlords can then easily turn a blind eye to problems. He continues by saying that while many landlords see their rentals as investments and work to keep them in good condition by repairing items brought to their attention, the problem is they are not often educated on operations and safety requirements making them unaware of serious conditions that may exist.
Of the hundreds of rentals this inspector has seen, he estimates that about 15% have serious condition issues that render the unit dangerous to live in. But do not let the percentage figure mislead you. This percentage, if extrapolated into a number of rental units, indicates that an inspection of all rental units in Bellingham (about 14,000*) would uncover approximately 2,000 to 2,500 unfit units. Furthermore, given the average occupancy of a dwelling unit in Bellingham, that means that from 4,500 to 5,500 human beings (adults and children) are, AT THE MOMENT YOU ARE READING THIS, living in dangerous conditions. None of this information is new or surprising. I have been reporting this kind of data for years. (Check my articles here and here for examples.) The problem is that few are paying attention while the real estate and landlord groups claim the problem can be solved by being nice to them and educating the tenants.
On October 27th the city council will conduct a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would require landlords merely to register their properties with the city. No inspections would be required. This proposal by council member Roxanne Murphy is based on a similar ordinance Murphy encountered in Tacoma , WA where she lived prior to recently moving to Bellingham. Although the ordinance met with some success in correcting exterior signs of blight, it failed in correcting serious interior defects in unsafe and unhealthy rental units across the board. My article "Councilmember Murphy's Proposed Rental Ordinance Is Deeply Flawed" contains more information on Tacoma’s experience and belies Murphy's claim that "maybe 5%" of Bellingham rentals are in poor condition.
*There are over 17,000 rental units in Bellingham, however, approximately 3,000 are controlled by and already inspected by other agencies such as HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 10:26 am // Dick ConoboyAn experienced real estate inspector provides a window to the dangeroous conditions found in rentals in Bellingham
3 comments; last on Oct 05, 2014
Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 5:07 am // Dick ConoboyLast Thursday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the docketing of the spot rezone of 801 Samish from Residential Single to Commerical Planned (non-retail)
6 comments; last on Oct 03, 2014
Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 8:00 am // Dick ConoboyCouncilmember Murphy's proposal is based on a complaint-based rental ordinance from Tacoma, demonstrated to do little for the health and safety of tenants.
14 comments; last on Oct 01, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am // Dick ConoboyIn contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.
1 comments; last on Jul 30, 2014
Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 8:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system
2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 10:24 am // Dick ConoboyThe Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.
5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 7:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 6:28 am // Dick ConoboyEvery Bellingham Planning Commission member has ties to development or development-related businesses.
4 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Wed, Apr 02, 2014, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling University Development Group pulls out. University Ridge will not be built.
12 comments; last on Apr 06, 2014
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 8:28 am // Dick ConoboyThe infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.
1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014
Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 6:30 am // Dick ConoboyProfessional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.
3 comments; last on Mar 01, 2014
Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 6:14 am // Dick ConoboyThe developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?
Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.
3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013
Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 6:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 6:35 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling's motion to the hearing examiner for reconsideration was definitively rejected. The developer has not met the deadline for an appeal to the Superior Court
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 6:16 am // Dick ConoboyPuget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.
Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 10:55 am // Dick ConoboyThe call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.
8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 11:19 am // Dick ConoboyFour bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia
3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 1:00 am // Dick ConoboyIndependent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 4:16 pm // Dick ConoboyThe development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.
6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 8:09 am // Dick ConoboyHearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.
8 comments; last on Sep 22, 2013
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe University Ridge process works only to the benefit of the developers. The public is offered tight deadlines and insufficient information.
1 comments; last on Sep 21, 2013
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe University Ridge dormitory development approval process is broken. The City Council should act.
1 comments; last on Aug 17, 2013
Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 11:22 am // Dick ConoboyCandidates for the Bellingham School Board need to let us know where they stand on charter schools.
3 comments; last on Aug 05, 2013
Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 8:04 pm // Dick ConoboyA variance request without merit is the centerpiece of a development proposal to construct a complex of four dormitory-style buildings among single family homes in the Puget Neighborhood
Thu, Jun 06, 2013, 6:30 pm // Dick ConoboyD-Day forgotten.
Mon, May 20, 2013, 12:48 pm // Dick ConoboyYou can give your money, normally dished out to fireworks manufacturers and distributors, to organizations that help our disabled veterans. Change the way we celebrate Independence Day.
Mon, May 13, 2013, 3:50 am // Dick ConoboySome very important issues with respect to the University Ridge private dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood will not be considered in the approval process.
10 comments; last on Jun 30, 2013
Wed, May 08, 2013, 9:53 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling University Development has proposed building private, off-campus dormitory buildings in the Puget Neighborhood. Their revised proposal was submitted on 29 April.
Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 3:59 pm // Dick ConoboyDangerous fireworks likely to continue being sold in Bellingham for this 4th of July
1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013
Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 12:48 pm // Dick ConoboyIt seems that for Apple products, you do not really own that hard drive... as a journalist recently discovered.
2 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 11:50 am // Dick ConoboySeveral complaints to the city seem to have occasioned a postponement of a height variance hearing until a complete development proposal is submitted.
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 11:05 am // Dick ConoboyYou are not likely to escape the coming transfer of $billions from your pocket to the health insurance industry. You will get little, if anything, in return.
4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013
Sun, Mar 03, 2013, 5:17 pm // Dick ConoboyDo we need to recreate the sounds and sights of the battlefield when doing so brings pain and suffering to our combat veterans?
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 7:54 pm // Dick ConoboyThere is a private sector development proposal to house approximately 600 students in the Puget Neighborhood on 11 acres to the east of Nevada St.
5 comments; last on Feb 27, 2013
Fri, Oct 19, 2012, 2:24 pm // Dick ConoboyWashington voters have wisely turned down three attempts to create charter schools in this state. They should replicate these defeats in 2012.
1 comments; last on Oct 23, 2012
Thu, May 24, 2012, 9:22 am // Dick ConoboyA case for eliminating consumer fireworks in Bellingham city limits
3 comments; last on May 26, 2012
Sat, Apr 07, 2012, 2:05 pm // Dick ConoboyThe issue is not sprawl or infill, but the money to be made by the type of infill and its placement
7 comments; last on Apr 09, 2012
Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 11:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe City Council outlines their agenda for the coming year
2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2012
Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 11:43 am // Dick ConoboyThe Padden Trails rezone effort is a misuse of the Infill Tool Kit on the outskirts of Bellingham.
8 comments; last on Nov 16, 2011
Wed, Nov 02, 2011, 4:00 pm // Dick ConoboyOccupy Bellingham is already creating jobs for the 99% - but this raises some interesting questions.
8 comments; last on Nov 04, 2011
Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 9:32 pm // Dick ConoboyUpdates on Rental Licensing in Bellingham
15 comments; last on Jun 25, 2011
Mon, Jan 17, 2011, 5:22 pm // Dick ConoboyWhy a ban on fireworks in Bellingham is needed, and a look at the politics of the issue.
31 comments; last on Jan 25, 2011
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