Rental Housing Safety Program

The Rental Housing Safety Program ensures that all rental units within city limits are safe. Rental property owners are required to register their property yearly with the City. On top of this, they must submit to inspections every five years.

6000 Main St SW
Lakewood, WA 98499

[email protected]

Registration and Inspection
Tenants
FAQ
Program Definitions
Documents

About

The Rental Housing Safety Program recently launched a new website. If you are an existing user or previously registered your rental property with the city, you still need to set up a user account on the new site. Once you create a user account you will receive a confirmation email from Tolemi, the operating system that houses the online registration. Once your account is created you will be able to add your rental properties, pay fees and track inspections. You will need to set up your account on the new site in order to receive your 2024 Rental Housing Safety Program license.

Visit the new site and get started today.

Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions or experience any issues.

Program Goals:

  • Ensure Lakewood’s rental housing meets specific life and fire safety standards;
  • Promote compliance with these standards so that the health and safety of tenants are not jeopardized;
  • Increase awareness and sharing of information related to rental housing standards among existing and future rental property owners, property managers, landlords, and tenants.

Rental properties registered with the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) are required to be inspected once every five years (see properties that are exempt below). The intent of the RHSP is to ensure that Lakewood’s residential rental housing meets specific health and safety standards and to promote compliance with these standards, so the health and safety of tenants are not jeopardized. Inspections address various line items which can be found on the City’s adopted Inspection Checklists:

If your rental unit is unsafe and requires immediate attention, email [email protected].

If you are looking to find Affordable Housing in Pierce County please visit www.affordablehousing.com

Program Updates to Lakewood City Council


Registration and Inspection

All rental property owners with property in the City of Lakewood are required to register their rental property on an annual basis with the city. The properties must be inspected and are required to pass City of Lakewood rental inspection protocols. Register your property online here.

Rental housing properties are separated into two categories: Single-family and Multifamily. Once registered, a property designation should appear in the data portal. If you have questions about your property designation, or believe you need to make a change, please contact our rental specialist at [email protected].

Once a unit passes inspection, it will be issued a Certificate of Compliance. Certificates are valid for five years. It is the responsibility of the property owner to schedule a re-inspection by Dec. 31, on the fifth year to maintain a Certificate of Compliance.

A Certificate of Compliance and Rental Business License are not the same. Property owners are required to register their rental and receive a Rental Business License each year using the online database. A Rental Business License is issued to a specific property and does not transfer due to sale or other transfer of ownership. A Rental Business License is issued annually and is only valid in the year in which it was issued. A Certificate of Compliance is issued once a property passes the City of Lakewood rental inspection for the property and is valid for five years. A Certificate of Compliance is issued to a specific property, and unlike the Rental Business License, it can be transferred to a new owner with a sale or other transfer of ownership.

City Inspector and Private Inspectors

Property owners have the option to use a City of Lakewood inspector or a qualified private inspector who has passed the RHSP inspections training course and possess at least one of the following credentials:

  • American Association of Code Enforcement property maintenance and housing inspector certification;
  • International Code Council property maintenance and housing inspector certification;
  • International Code Council residential building code inspector;
  • United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Certified Inspector;
  • American Society of Home Inspectors Certified Inspector;
  • A private inspector certified by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, the American Association of Code Enforcement, or other comparable professional association as approved by the Rental Housing Safety Program Administrator or Designee;
  • A municipal code enforcement officer;
  • A Washington State licensed structural engineer;
  • A Washington State licensed architect;
  • Washington State licensed home inspector; or
  • Other acceptable credentials the director establishes by rule.
  • Our private inspector webpage contains more details of this option, as well as the program documents private inspectors are required to use.

Initial inspections may be made by a City of Lakewood inspector or a qualified private inspector. All re-inspections must be made by City of Lakewood inspectors.

List of Approved Inspectors

ASAP Budget Inspections

Donald Gardner
6902 Ford Drive NW
Gig Harbor, WA 98335

Phone: 253-549-6606
Email: [email protected]

Baum Inspection Services

James Baum
26828 Mv Bk Dm Rd SE #283,
Maple Valley, WA 98038

Phone: 425-864-0956
Email: [email protected]

Bedrock Home Inspections, LLC

John E Sexton
8104 183rd Ave E
Bonney Lake, WA 98391

Phone: 253-830-4633
Email: [email protected]

Better comfort home inspections

William Custer
po box 4968
Spanaway, WA 98387

Phone: 253-377-9841
email: [email protected]

Blackburn’s home inspections

Richard Blackburn
PO Box 44898
Tacoma, WA 98448

Phone: 360-670-8621
Email: [email protected]

Geometra Home Inspections

Robert Richards
3030 W Commodore Way, A 304
Seattle, WA 98199

Phone: 206-931-8304
Email: [email protected]

Home Recon Northwest Inspection Services

Christopher Todd Burgess
320 Marietta CT
Steilacoom, WA 98388

Phone: 253-970-0029
Email: [email protected]

Ideal Inspection Services LLC

Brent Lindblom
10855 35th Ave. SW
Seattle, WA 98146

Phone: 206-930-0264
Email: [email protected]

Immaculate Home Inspection Inc.

Todd Obergfell
8825 Weller Rd SW
Lakewood, WA 98498

Phone: 253-677-7424
Email: [email protected]

Lasswell Home Inspection

Jerome Kukowski
1621 SW 168th St
Normandy Park, WA 98166

Phone: 253-905-4273
Email: [email protected]

Straight Street Building/Home & Pest Inspections

John Leon Gonzalez
4024 South 173rd Street
SeaTac, WA 98188

Phone: 206-999-1234
Email: [email protected]

The House Inspection Team

Aaron Keating
13110 NE 177th PL #350
Woodinville, WA 98072

Phone: 425-213-7920
Email: [email protected]

Taurus Home Inspections

Lisa Lotus
5506 South 144th ST
Tukwila, WA 98168

Phone: 206-676-0023
Email: [email protected]


Tenants

The Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) is designed to improve residential housing and provide for neighborhood stability throughout the city. Rental property owners, or a designated representative, are required to register their property with the City of Lakewood. Once a rental property is registered, a health and safety inspection will be performed once every five years.

How does this program benefit tenants?

What do I need to know about the inspection process?

  • When your rental unit is scheduled for a safety inspection, the owner or manager must provide proper written notice per RCW 59.18.150(6). You are allowed to ask to see the inspector’s ID before they enter your unit. Denying access after proper notice has been given will result in the penalties outlined in RCW 59.18.150(8). Remember: the inspector is there looking out for your best interest!

Will this program affect my rent?

  • The city cannot anticipate the impact this program may have on the rental market. We can provide information on the fees charged to implement the program.

It might be a while before the property I am renting is inspected. If I currently have concerns with health and safety items on the checklist, what are my options?

  • If you feel there is an issue at the rental property that requires more immediate attention, please email [email protected].

How can I find out if a rental property is in compliance?

  • If a rental property has passed inspection through the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP), a Certificate of Compliance must be posted in a visible location at each single-family rental location or in a shared location at each multifamily location. A shared location could be lobbies, mailrooms or onsite leasing offices for example. Alternatively, the landlord may present a copy of the certificate to the tenant at lease signing. Do not sign a lease for a rental property that has not registered with the RHSP. If you discover a rental property is not registered, notify the City by emailing [email protected] or calling 253-983-7850.

How can tenants assist with the implementation of this program?

  • Tenants play a vital role in the successful implementation of RHSP and can assist in the following ways:
    • Encourage the property owner or landlord to register the property;
    • Learn about maintenance standards and notify the owner or landlord when things need to be fixed or are not up to standard; and
    • Contact the City of Lakewood if the owner or landlord is not complying with RHSP by either not registering or not meeting the maintenance standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the City of Lakewood have the authority to create a rental housing safety program?

  • Under state law (RCW 35A.82.020), cities have the authority to require people who rent residential property for business purposes to get a business license.

    Additionally, in 2010, the Washington State Legislature authorized local municipalities to establish rental inspection programs under RCW 59.18.125.

    Cities that adopt a rental inspection/licensing ordinance must comply with RCW 59.18.125 which states in part: “Local municipalities may require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection as a business license condition. A local municipality does not need to have a business license or registration program in order to require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection. A certificate of inspection does not preclude, or limit inspections conducted pursuant to the tenant remedy as provided for in RCW 59.18.115, at the request or consent of the tenant, or pursuant to a warrant.”

    Many cities have rental housing inspection programs of similar nature: e.g., Seattle, Spokane, Pasco, Bellingham, Tacoma, Auburn, Kent, Burien, Tukwila, Aberdeen, University Place, and Mountlake Terrace.

    The Washington Supreme Court, in City of Pasco v. Shaw (2007), found that the City of Pasco’s Rental Housing Inspection Program was consistent with the state Constitution as it allowed provisions for independently certified compliance by having an approved class of inspectors conduct required inspections, rather than exclusively municipal employees. The burden of the landlord is to provide the certificate of inspection, which does not necessarily permit the city entry onto the property (although the landlord can provide permission to that effect). City of Pasco v. Shaw (2007)

    The City of Lakewood’s RHSP also has provisions for independently certified inspectors to conduct required inspections.

What components of a rental unit will be inspected?

  • Health and safety components consistent with RCW 59.18.030 (1), including:
    • structural integrity
    • weather exposure
    • plumbing and sanitation
    • heat, water, and water facilities
    • ventilation systems
    • defective or hazardous electrical wiring and/or service
    • safe and functional exits
    • smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Mold is only component of inspection and remediation if, during inspection, it is determined to be a symptom of weather intrusion, plumbing leaks, or lack of ventilation. In the event that mold is determined to be caused by lifestyle, the city will only offer advice to the tenant in how to reduce or eliminate mold in their dwelling. The city will not inspect for lead paint and asbestos, as these are generally not life safety concerns UNLESS they are introduced to air or water by way of removal or disturbance.

The inspection checklists are available at the top of this page. Their purpose is to provide a reasonable level of predictability for owners, residents and inspection personnel. No checklist can encompass every possible scenario, and not all apparent violations present a threat to the health or safety of tenants. Accordingly, inspectors are required to use a significant amount of professional judgment.

Does every unit at the rental property need to be inspected?

  • No, only those units specifically listed on the notification letter sent by the City of Lakewood.

What are the requirements of the notification to tenants?

  • Prior to the inspection occurring, written notification of intent to allow an inspector to enter must be provided to the tenants of the unit. According to RCW59.18.150(6) this must occur no less than 48 hours prior to the inspection date. The notice must indicate the date and approximate time of the inspection and the name of the company or person performing the inspection. It must also indicate that the tenant has the right to see the inspector’s identification before they enter the unit. For examples of 48-hour tenant notices please see single family/mobile/manufactured homes (PDF) OR multifamily properties (PDF). These notices are fully editable for your use.

What if I don’t register my rental property or rental property units?

  • Any rental property owner who fails to complete the required documentation and pay an initial registration fee or renewal registration fee on or prior to the expiration date of the registration is subject to penalties and/or late fees as determined and adopted by the City of Lakewood Master Fee Schedule and/or penalties in accordance with LMC 5.60.150, or LMC 5.02, and could result in a Rental Business License revocation in accordance with LMC 5.60.060.

What happens if a tenant denies the landlord/inspector access to the property?

  • Per RCW59.18.150(1): “The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises […]” A tenant who denies access to the property after the landlord has provided the two-days’ written notice as required by RCW 59.18.150(6) will be subject to the penalties outlined in RCW 59.18.150(8).

Do I need to register if I am renting out bedrooms in the property I own and live in?

  • No, not as long as you are living at the property. If you ever move out and rent out the entire property, you will be required to register.

Exemptions

Pursuant to Lakewood Municipal Code 5.60.025, the following rental housing units are exempt from RHSP:

  • Units occupied by owner
  • Units occupied by parent or child of owner
  • Units unavailable for rent
  • Hotels, motels, resorts or other facility or places with three (3) or more lodging rooms where all guests stay for period of less than thirty (30) days
  • Retirement or nursing homes
  • Any hospital, state-licensed community care facility, convent, convent/ monasteries / other facilities occupied exclusively by members of a religious order, and extended medical care facilities
  • Rental units that a government unit, agency or authority owns, operates or manages, or that are specifically exempted from municipal regulation by State or federal law or administrative regulation
  • Units constructed within the past 10 years with a satisfactory certificate of occupancy and no code violations since the date of the certificate of occupancy
  • Units that include all of the following:
    • Receive funding or subsidies from the federal, state or a local government
    • Are inspected at least every three years as a requirement of the funding or subsidy
    • A copy of the inspection to the City is provided
    • The inspection is substantially equivalent to the inspection required by RHSP (determined by the Director)
  • Condominiums* / Townhouses* located in a multi-unit structure under multiple ownership
  • Mobile and manufactured homes
  • Shelters and transitional housing
  • Other housing units which may be exempt from inspection as otherwise be provided by law.

New Construction

  • Pursuant to RCW 59.18.125(4)(a), a rental property that has received a certificate of occupancy within the last four years and has had no code violations reported on the property during that period is exempt from inspection. All units are still required to be registered but will not be chosen for inspection until at least four years following receiving the certificate of occupancy.

* Condominiums or townhouses owned by a single owner or ownership group are required to comply with the regulations of the RHSP Program.


Program Definitions

“Accessory dwelling unit” or “ADU”
A housing unit that is accessory to a single-household dwelling and meets the requirements of LMC 18A.40.110 (B) for accessory dwellings.

“Certificate of inspection”
An unsworn statement, declaration, verification, or certificate made in accordance with the requirements of RCW 9A.72.085 by a qualified inspector that states that the landlord has not failed to fulfill any substantial obligation imposed under RCW 59.18.060 that endangers or impairs the health or safety of a tenant, including:

  1. structural members that are of insufficient size or strength to carry imposed loads with safety
  2. exposure of the occupants to the weather
  3. plumbing and sanitation defects that directly expose the occupants to the risk of illness or injury
  4. not providing facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant
  5. providing heating or ventilation systems that are not functional or are hazardous
  6. defective, hazardous, or missing electrical wiring or electrical service
  7. defective or hazardous exits that increase the risk of injury to occupants
  8. conditions that increase the risk of fire.

“Director”
The City Manager or designee assigned with the enforcement of this chapter.

“Non-owner Managers”
As used in this Chapter, means any person(s) hired or engaged for the purpose of providing management services for any Residential housing unit within the City of Lakewood, where the Manager(s) has/have no ownership in the Residential housing unit being managed.

“Owner”
Any person who, alone or with others, has title or interest in any building, with or without accompanying actual possession thereof, and including any person who as agent, or executor, administrator, trustee, or guardian of an estate has charge, care, or control of any building. This definition includes, without limitation, the owner, lessor, or sublessor of the rental unit or the property of which it is a part, and in addition means any person designated as representative of the owner, lessor, or sublessor including, but not limited to, an agent, a resident manager, or a designated property manager.

“Qualified inspector”
A United States housing and urban development certified inspector; a Washington state licensed home inspector; an American society of home inspectors certified inspector; a private inspector certified by the national association of housing and redevelopment officials, the American association of code enforcement, or other comparable professional association as approved by the local municipality; a municipal code enforcement officer; a Washington licensed structural engineer; or a Washington licensed architect.

“Rental-housing Complex”
As used in this Chapter, means any complex of five (5) or more residential units on one property or on adjacent property owned by the same person or persons, or business entity, or multiples thereof or combinations thereof, or five (5) or more residential rental properties located within the City of Lakewood not on adjacent properties but owned, in whole or in part, by the same owner(s).

“Rental-housing Complex Owners”
As used in this Chapter, means the individual or individuals, partnership(s), corporation(s) or any combination thereof owning or having an ownership interest in any residential housing unit within the City of Lakewood.

“Rental unit”
A residential housing unit occupied or rented by a tenant or available for rent by a tenant.

“Residential housing unit”
All dwelling units on a contiguous quantity of land managed by the same landlord as a single, rental complex. This definition includes, but is not limited to any structure or part of a structure in the City of Lakewood that is used or may be used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one person or by two or more persons maintaining a common household, including but not limited to single-family residences and units of multiplexes and apartment buildings.

“Shelter”
A facility with overnight sleeping accommodations, owned, operated, or managed by a nonprofit agency or governmental entity, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless.

“Tenant”
A person occupying or holding possession of a building or premises pursuant to a rental agreement.

“Transitional housing”
Residential housing units owned, operated, or managed by a nonprofit agency or governmental entity in which supportive services are provided to individuals or families that were formerly homeless, with the intent to stabilize them and move them to permanent housing within a period of not more than 24 months.

“Unit unavailable for rent”
A residential housing unit that is not offered or available for rent as a rental unit, and that prior to offering or making the unit available as a rental unit, the owner is required to obtain a residential rental business license for the building in which the unit is located and comply with applicable administrative regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter.


Documents