New Bellingham Rental Ordinance Will Require Apartment Building Owners to Register Property Information

The Bellingham City Council voted unanimously on July 7th to approve council member Roxanne Murphy’s proposed rental safety ordinance that would require most property owners to register their rental units. Final approval on the ordinance is expected to take place in September 2014.

If approved, the new ordinance will require Bellingham apartment building owners to declare that their units are in compliance with a city-provided checklist of safety standards via a “simple apartment and rental unit registration system”. The registration will require property owners to pay a fee which has yet not been set.

Other rental ordinance options have come before council over the past several years and have failed, causing Councilmember Murphy to draft a registration-only ordinance in order to get something basic passed by Council.

Councilmember Jack Weiss had put forth a more stringent ordinance, which was rejected by the City Council. Weiss’ ordinance would have required both registration and inspection of a certain percentage of the city’s rental units each year and would likely have resulted in a larger registration fee due to the inspection process.

In Murphy’s ordinance option, which is widely expected to pass in September, the city could require a property owner to get a certified inspection before renewal of their registration if a complaint is received. Property owners would also be required to provide contact information, along with basic data about their units, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, fuel sources, and building location.

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