The Issues

July 15, 2013

Letter to the Council

Dear Council Members:

Rental property is a business that is not adequately dealt with in our existing BMC. Rental properties with less than four units are unregulated and some of them would easily be classified as slumlord dwellings.

Slumlord dwellings are easy to spot:

  • Some have cars parked all over the lawn.
  • Some have two foot-high grass that hasn't been mowed.
  • Some are in serious disrepair.
  • Some have rubbish scattered about.
  • All of them degrade our neighborhoods.

Most landlords do a good job of managing their properties because they know that it is in their best financial interest to do so. Slumlords on the other hand, are always looking for an easy buck, and will lease to anyone, including those that damage property.

Burien should rectify this gap in the BMC by requiring all rental businesses to maintain their properties. I believe if the rental market was required to maintain their properties in accordance with the same code homeowners have to follow, it would dramatically improve our neighborhoods.

Licensing these smaller rental properties the same way it licenses home occupied businesses, $35 per year per dwelling, would generate sufficient money to pay the cost of an extra full time compliance officer to monitor these businesses located in our neighborhoods.

I propose:

  • Burien hire a full time person to drive by all rental units located in Burien once a month. There is 150 miles of paved roadway in Burien with thousands of rentals.
  • 2 photos be taken from the public right-of-way of all rental properties monthly.

By requiring the landlords to register online:

  • The city can efficiently monitor neighborhood activities that harm our city.
  • The city can maintain an email database to quickly notify landlords of problems. Dealing with the tenant on code issues does not work. The owner is the responsible party for maintaining their property.
  • Photos of the property can be sent via email monthly.
  • Any bounced emails will alert the city to update the email database.
  • Pertinent updates to the BMC regarding landlords can be quickly distributed.

Burien should have a PDF file with current regulations that can be downloaded and inserted into the lease agreement. These PDF files should also have a synopsis to make them easy to understand:

  • Four cars maximum. Same as homeowners.
  • Parking only in designated driveways. Same as homeowners.
  • Vegetation shall not encroach onto sidewalks, roadways, or intersections. Same as homeowners.
  • Lawn to be maintained between March 1st and October 15th at an interval not to exceed three weeks.

This current economic cycle is fueling the slum lord problem in Burien. Specifically, many of the foreclosed houses in Burien are being sold to investors. A small percentage of these will become slum lords. Each of these slum lord dwellings degrade property values for 3 square miles. Burien has only 10 square miles. This isn't a problem we can afford to ignore anymore when an easy solution is at hand to improve our neighborhoods.