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Bellingham
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Rental conditions to improve with new regulations

Western students living off campus can expect new regulations to enforce standards of living after an ordinance originally lobbied for by Western students goes into effect this summer. 

By August 1, all rental property owners will need to have registered their properties with the city. Registering their properties will help the city to better enforce safety codes and standards of living for renters, Burnfield said. 

Since Western’s campus is able to accommodate about 4,043 students with on-campus housing, many of the 15,060 students who attend Western rent off-campus housing, according to Western’s housing page.

“We’re looking out for renters and Western students who make up a big part of that so hopefully we can come in and make sure they have a good place to live while they go through school,” said Emma Burnfield from the Planning and Community Development Department.

There will be stronger emphasis on things like maintaining building structures, preventing infestations, keeping the property clean and sanitary, and making sure all locks, electrical, plumbing and heating are in working condition, according to the website.

Before the ordinance was put in place, the city did not have any direct interaction with rental properties besides having the safety code requirements listed online.

Now the codes are going to be heavily enforced by requiring an inspection of properties every three years, Burnfield said.

Starting in July, Burnfield said all property owners will have to pay a yearly fee to keep their properties registered and available to rent, dependent on the number of units the property has. If a building has between one to 20 units, the owners have to pay $10 per unit. If an owner has 21 or more units, they will pay $8 per unit.

Jessica Olsen, a student at Western, said she is unsure of the ordinance because of the potential upset among landlords for having to pay fees.

“In a perfect world, it would be nice. But the inspections are only every three years,” Olsen said.

However, student Sienna Schaal said she’s had safety problems at her apartment and she thinks this will protect students.

“A lot of students, like me, have no idea how to fix things, so I think it’s good for students to have that kind of protection,” she said.

Owners currently ask tenants to submit maintenance requests when there are issues with the property or specific things that need to be fixed, Burnfield said. But with the new program, potential safety issues can be maintained proactively, she said.

“The intent for the program is to make sure everyone has a safe and healthy place to live.” Burnfield said.

Property owners have from July 1 to August 1 to register their properties and get on the rental inspection circuit. If property owners don’t register their rental properties they will be issued a civil infraction and a fine of up to $200 every day for the first ten days and $500 a day each day after.

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