[Note: September 28, 2016 - the percentage figure of failures was initially reported at 42%. In fact, the correct failure rate was 50% (227 of 458 inspections.]
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
— Winston Churchill
Bellingham's war on slum housing has just begun and in the first round of rental inspections since June 1 in the Sehome neighborhood the enemy has been rousted. Out of the dark corners, hidden from the public eye emerges the truth about Bellingham's dirty little secret: Slum landlords are alive and thriving.
Although landlords have had about two years to fix up their units since the rental inspection ordinance was passed, a shocking 50% [corrected figure] of the units (according to the city's preliminary figures below) failed their initial inspection. Even the ones that passed had some "conditions" at the initial visit. This demonstrates the arrogance of landlords who, knowing that inspections were coming, did nothing. After years of ignoring basic health and safety standards they, as business owners, are now being held accountable to business standards for the very first time!
Here is the preliminary breakdown for the Sehome neighborhood where inspections officially wrap up at the end of September.
Between 6/1/16 and 9/13/16 a total of 267 properties (or approximately 458 [corrected] units) have been inspected:
• 231 units passed or passed w/ conditions at initial inspection
• 227 units failed at initial inspection
• 78 units were marked as missed appointments at initial inspection (these are scheduled again as "initial inspection" and would show back up in the passed or failed categories)
• 115 units passed or passed w/ conditions at 1st re-inspection
• 7 units failed at 1st re-inspection
• 19 units were marked as missed appointments at 1st re-inspection (these are scheduled again as "1st re-inspection" and would show back up in the passed or failed categories)
• 2 units passed or passed w/ conditions at 2nd re-inspection
Advocates for the new rental inspection program challenged the city and the rental industry to prove us wrong. Local anti-inspection landlords said their industry was better here. They promoted that myth during a long 15-year battle against implementation of inspections and registration. Unfortunately, the claims of those supporting rental inspections for the last decade or more were born out in this first round of code enforcement. Fortunately the Bellingham City Council finally, albeit for some members very reluctantly, bit the bullet two years ago and created an ordinance to inspect rental units and ensure the health and safety of half of the city's residents, tenants.
The war on slum housing has just begun. The faulty wiring, bad plumbing, infestation of rats, leaky roofs, mold and unsafe structures are finally being exposed. Bellingham's liberation from its dirty little secret has just begun.
It will be interesting to see how the "rental industry" leadership responds to this, if at all.