Olympia City Council considers new rules for rental accommodation

By Lorilyn C. Lirio

Olympia City Council on Tuesday approved amendments to the city’s rental housing ordinance code, including move-in fee limits, rent increase notification and pet security deposit .

Council members passed the amendments to Chapter 5.82 of the WTO Rental Housing Code on first reading.

The proposed changes will be on the agenda for tomorrow’s city council meeting for second reading.

“As of now, they have taken the first step towards approval. The ordinance is not moving forward until second reading approval,” said Strategic Communications Manager/Deputy PIO Carrie Mc Causland in an e-mail to Shaking.

During a presentation at the Tuesday, August 10, city council meeting, Olympia Housing Program Specialist Christa Lenssen identified three proposed changes:

  • 82.040 Notice of rent increase
    • requires 120 days notice for rent increases greater than 5%
    • requires 180 days notice for rent increases greater than 10%
  • 82.050 Deposits for domestic animals
    • capped at 25% of monthly rent
    • allows three consecutive monthly payments
  • 82.060 Limits on move-in expenses
    • prohibits the collection of non-refundable fees at the start of the rental

Lenssen explained that the order would allow landlords to charge a non-refundable move-in fee. “But we could require landlords to charge the equivalent of a month’s rent when moving in, whether they decide to use it as a security deposit or last month’s rent…there would be flexibility in how how it’s charged, but the amount would still be the equivalent of one month’s rent.”

She said this would ban all non-refundable charges such as administrative fees, but would allow a security deposit or last month’s rent in the amount of one month’s rent.

Research led to these changes

According to Lenssen, the modifications are the result of three years of research and community engagements by the city’s housing staff.

She said they conducted research on peer city policies regarding rental housing and statewide legislative changes. The research included interviews with peer city staff, one-on-one interviews with tenant and landlord advocates, online surveys developed for tenants, landlords and interested third parties, and the completion of four focus groups including tenants, advocates and landlords.

She said she received 200 responses from tenants who participated in the survey. Around 50% said they paid around 30-50% of monthly household income for rent, not including utilities, while more than 30% said they spent more than 50% of their income on payments monthly rent. About 80% said they made $75,000 or less in their household, and 80% said it was “much more difficult to pay rent.”

Council member Dani Madrone said the order is intended to provide relief to tenants. She said it would take a long time to build the housing needed to meet community demand.

“This action alone is not a complete solution. It is one of many strategies to address the housing issues we face in our community,” Madrone said.

Madrone is also the chair of the Land Use and Environment Committee, which led staff to craft the house rental code amendments.

“These are the first changes we could make to city policy so that housing providers are…responsible as a business,” Pro Tem Clark Gilman commented.

The high cost of housing affects schooling

Mayor Cheryl Selby said the high cost of housing in Olympia is causing low enrollment in the Olympia School District.

She said OSD Supt. Patrick Murphy informed her of the sharp drop in registrations.

“Some of it was due to COVID, but a lot of it is that they believe the cost of housing in Olympia, and young families can’t necessarily afford to live in the city anymore,” Selby said, citing OSD superintendent.

Mixed reaction from the public

Representative Andrew Barkis, who operates a property management business in Olympia, strongly opposed the changes to the rental housing code as he described them as “wrong and untimely”. He said putting in place new regulations for housing providers must stop. “We already have significant protections in place for tenants. The past two years have been extremely difficult for housing providers,” he said. Shaking.

He said these regulations caused housing providers to sell their properties and put them out of business. “It doesn’t help our housing shortage. These are the same provisions that activists have tried to push through at the state level and if that fails, they are going to the local level.

Public commentator Alyssa, who claimed to be a housing provider in Olympia for 24 years, urged council members to consider the consequences before enacting the proposed changes.

“We provided housing. Unfortunately, it became very adversarial,” Alyssa said of rental housing laws and regulations. “They exacerbate antagonism by limiting the evolution of costs.” She added that this does not make housing affordable.

She said her risks had increased significantly, which meant an increase in overall rent. “That doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help anyone.

Another commentator, Jane Totten, shared the same sentiment, saying she provided affordable housing in Olympia. “But after the new laws and regulations were passed during the pandemic, I could no longer be an affordable housing provider. And I had to adapt to the new rules, the laws that the state put in place.

Totten warned that if the city continues to pass more housing provider laws and rules, it will mean less affordable housing available.

Commentator Christina said housing providers are small local investors. She pointed out that the Olympia housing survey showed that 32% of owner-respondents own one to five units. She said that in addition to the increase in property tax, some small owners have to deal with the increase in maintenance costs and building materials. “I hope you proceed with caution. More owners will likely leave and sell the property. And when we don’t have supply, we will have demand and prices will continue to rise.

A suggestion from a local owner

“It’s a delicate balance. The city wants to help tenants, and that’s understandable. market housing. rental stock, Olympia resident David Hanig said Shaking.

“If the city is interested in retaining smaller housing providers, one option to consider is to apply greater regulatory overhead to larger landlords. They have the infrastructure and capacity to handle a more complex regulatory environment,” Hanig added. .

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