New Tacoma law targets 'slum lords'

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by TERESA YUAN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 29, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 29 at 8:32 PM

TACOMA, Wa. -- The City of Tacoma passed a law this year to crackdown on unsafe rental properties, aiming at so-called "slumlords."
 
It's taken three years to craft and pass the new ordinance with input from tenants, concerned residents, and landlords associations.
 
The root problem has been over blighted, broken down and boarded up rentals around town that are unsafe to live in.
 
Under the new city law, when tenants or neighbors report a run-down property, a licensing fee can be leveled against the landlord and mandatory inspections.
 
"The inspections are really about helping people to get into a safe and healthy condition. In the end game we'd just like the housing stock to be in good condition," said Christian Clegg with the City of Tacoma.
 
During the inspection, the landlords must show proof their properties meet fire and safety codes or else pay a fine. Offenders would be monitored for three years.
 
"What this does is give us a little more ability to protect those who can't fully protect themselves as property owners," said Clegg.
 
This new law impacts many people in Tacoma because there are more renters than homeowners in the city -- 54% rent in Tacoma while 46% own their homes.
 
And when it comes to *known "slumlords" the city estimates about 3 - 5% operate in Tacoma.
 
Jeanie Peterson with Hilltop Action Coalition has been a strong advocate for the new ordinance.
 
"These guys they work every loophole you can. Some of them the whole house is bad or some slap a nice coat of paint every couple of years and they do the minimum they need on the outside but people are living on the inside with stoves where only 1 burner works actual dripping leaks, when tenants complain, the landlord says where are you going to get rent for this rate," Peterson told KING 5.
 
Landlords will have a "grace period" this year. This city is educating landlords and getting them up to speed on building and safety codes, so there's no excuses come January 1, 2012 when the city will start enforcing and fining people.
 

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