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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Western rental properties fail multiple city inspections

Editor’s note: This article is one of a series written based on public information requested from the City of Bellingham Planning and Development Department for data covering Bellingham rental inspections between June 13, 2016, when the city began the inspections, and Feb. 9.

The data includes inspections in the York and Sehome neighborhoods and in part of Happy Valley. Other neighborhoods have yet to be inspected.

The data is not inclusive of all inspections as many landlords opt to use private inspectors who are not required to file detailed reports with the city. Links to additional stories can be found at the end of each article.


Written by: Dante Koplowitz-Fleming and Laura Place

Five of Western’s seven off-campus rental units inspected under Bellingham’s new rental inspection program failed the first round of city inspections, according to city inspection data. Some of these properties failed multiple times due to unresolved damages.

Western owns a string of rental units along Indian Terrace, less than 50 yards from campus. Although they are open to all renters, most of these units are occupied by students.

Prior to this year of rental inspections, the properties were maintained by annual internal inspections by a third-party company, Windermere Residential Management.

“The house was drafty and cold, and there was moss and mold – but these are things we expected… The issues that have arisen, they’ve been good about.”

Ethan Kleekamp, renter on Indian Terrace

“The university does conduct external visual inspections annually of each property to ensure they are maintained and not an ‘eyesore’ for the neighborhood,” Paul Cocke, director of communications and marketing, said of the properties.

Ethan Kleekamp has been renting a unit on Indian Terrace with his fiancé since July 2016. He said he has contact with their landlord about once a month, in order to “maintain rapport.”

“The house was drafty and cold, and there was moss and mold – but these are things we expected.” Kleekamp said. “The issues that have arisen, they’ve been good about.”

The city inspection data shows the unit failed inspections twice. Inspector Rob Barker noted the landlord needed to “seal ceiling penetrations between [the] garage and dwelling.”

Another Indian Terrace unit owned by Western failed inspection due to standing water within the residence, which was a result of a “plumbing leak in [the] mechanical room.”

Cocke clarified, saying, “depending on the situation,” responses to issues generally fall to Windermere, but “any damages or other issues occurring after ownership ultimately fall to the University.”

Header image: A hole in the ceiling at 1310 Grant St. where repairs are being done to a leaking roof. According to tenants, the property management company did not complete repairs until the unit was inspected by the city. // Photo courtesy of Erasmus Baxter and Alexis Edgar

READ THE SERIES:

After years of debate, rental inspection program implemented
Rental inspection results reveal issues with landlords in York and Sehome neighborhoods
The data: take a look at information about rentals inspected
Mold poses problems not covered in rental inspections
Western rental properties fail multiple city inspections
Majority of Bellingham rentals pass first rounds of inspections
What is it like to be a Bellingham rental inspector?
Bellingham: most common rental inspection issues had simple solutions
New union seeks to support Bellingham renters

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