A four-hour long discussion session at the Spokane City Council meeting, Monday night, ended in approval of two new landlord-tenant ordinances (Ordinance C-36330 and Ordinance C-36366) – both strongly opposed by Spokane REALTORS®.
“We believe that Passing this ordinance could have and will have a negative impact on rental availability and affordability in Spokane and as you all know we already have a shortage of available homes to rent or buy,” 2023 Spokane Realtors® President Tom Hormel said in his testimony.
Passing this legislation will do absolutely nothing to help
The reasoning is simple. Spokane doesn’t have enough enforcement officers for the laws we already have. If you want to go after the bad actors, then enhance penalties and provisions that do that.
We also don’t see any need to duplicate services already provided by the state. Instead, we should wait and see how that funding level looks in the next session. Most of the funds you are providing will be taken up by just managing the funds – and not get into the hands of people who need them.
Second, the universal background check sounds like a good idea on paper, but would be an absolute disaster to landlords. Not only would the system not take into account the differing needs for housing providers, but has the potential of placing hundreds of thousands of dollars in HUD funding from being in jeopardy, for not being in federal compliance. Background checks protect the tenants who are already living there.
Finally, we are concerned by the number of smaller landlords who are selling off their units. By our estimates, about 8-10% of all units are sold every year. This “sell-off” was predicted in a Whitworth Economics Professor’s paper “Housing as a Social Determinant for Health,” that shows how over 80% of smaller landlords were considering selling off their properties because of burdensome regulation.
Bottom line – this hurts all tenants. Higher costs, lower availability and reduced tenant protections.
License for Every Unit in Spokane – The purpose of licensure registrations is to identify the bad actors. Based on the complaints the city is already aware of, this ordinance targets ALL landlords instead of those who are violating the law. The proposed fee of $10 per door, per year is seen as a punitive measure that does NOT address the enforcement issue. We can add more rules but if there is not enforcement mechanism it likely will not move the needle.
Pro-active inspections – Again you don’t have enough staffing to enforce the current codes and the “bad actors” are the ones you would be protecting the public from. Implementing this as a probationary measure for violations makes more sense then trying to schedule 3 people to inspect 10’s of thousands of units. Additionally, there are constitutional issues with random, unscheduled inspections without probable cause.
Universal/Transferable Background checks – We learned from landlords that funding assistance programs, such as those administered by HUD require specific applications. Most universal checks to NOT meet their standards, putting thousands of dollars in assistance funds at risk. We must also insist protections remain in place for other tenants.
City mitigation fund – This is fraught with issues especially since the state already has such funds. Unscrupulous landlords and tenants could double dip. The legislature will determine funding for these programs within the next 90 days. Not shown is the additional staff costs for managing these programs.
Legal services/Relocation – Also exists at the state level. Would likely cause more confusion as the state resource is required to be disclosed on current foreclosure notices.
Spokane City Staffing – This legislation would require expertise in code enforcement, housing policies and financial services that is not currently available within the city for implementation. We estimate this code will require 14-new positions to enforce at a cost of well over $1-million a year, during a time when the city of facing a severe budget crisis.