Changes to Rules for Vacant Buildings

On September 8, the Mayor signed Ordinance 125399, which updates provisions for the maintenance and demolition of vacant buildings. The ordinance becomes effective on October 9, 2017.

The amendments to the Housing and Building Maintenance Code (Title 22) and the Land Use Code (Title 23) are:

  • Strengthen standards for securing vacant buildings
  • Establish an expedited process for removal of garbage and other debris from sites with vacant buildings
  • Establish an expedited process for demolition of hazardous vacant buildings
  • Reduce the amount of time that a residential building must remain vacant before we can issue a demolition permit

If you have questions about the adopted legislation, please email or call Christina Ghan at (206-233-3749).

Repairs Over Water? Check With the City First.

SDCI is reminding residents that if they need to make any repair over water they need to check with the City of Seattle first.

Two common shoreline violations are unauthorized pier repair and the use of pressure-treated with for pier surfaces.

If you are making repairs, you will need to apply for a shoreline exemption. Learn about the types of projects that qualify for an exemption on our Shoreline Exemptions website. Tip 209A, Shoreline Substantial Development Exemptions Application Instructions, provides more information about shoreline exemptions and how to apply.

Pressure treated wood can be identified by score marks on the surface and a green or orange color. We don’t allow you to use wood treated with preservatives because it’s toxic to fish, doesn’t degrade, and accumulates in the environment. While treated wood is low-cost and decay resistant, the chemicals are toxic to humans as well as aquatic life.

For more information about shoreline regulations, contact (206) 684-5040.

If you want to file a complaint, call (206) 615-0808.

South Seattle Home Fair

You’re invited to a South Seattle Home Fair on February 11, 2017, hosted by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. This event is your chance to ask questions about your planned remodel and our permitting process, code requirements, and rental housing and tenant assistance program. City staff will also be available to discuss housing, emergency preparedness, energy rebates, landslide awareness, and rain garden information.

Whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, renter, or potential homeowner, this event has something for you.

Saturday, February 11, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Filipino Community Center
Ballroom & Conference Room #201
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
(The Filipino Community Center is ADA accessible.)


We will have several staffed information tables in the Ballroom. We will also have three presentations in a conference room on the second floor*:

  • 10:30 – 11:30 – Earthquake Retrofit (protect your home in case of an earthquake)
  • 11:45 – 12:45 – Landslide Awareness (help prevent landslides near your home)
  • 1:00 – 1:30 – Rental Housing (learn about new rental housing rules)


Information tables will include the following topics:

  • Affordable Housing Information
  • Building Code
  • Building Inspections
  • Building Permits
  • Earthquake Retrofits
  • Electrical Inspections
  • Emergency Communication Hubs
  • Emergency Management
  • Energy Rebates
  • Energy-Saving Tips
  • Home Repair Assistance
  • Home Ownership Assistance
  • Land Use Rules
  • Landslide Awareness
  • Landlord / Tenant Information
  • Raingardens and Cisterns
  • Rental Housing Rules


Other City departments and local organizations will also be available to answer questions.

  • Habitat for Humanityis recruiting for its home repair program! Are you a homeowner that is looking for an affordable repair? Check out our booth at the South Seattle Home Fair.
  • HomeSightwill provide information about Prepurchase Education classes, Homeownership Counseling, First mortgage lending for refinance, and purchase and down payment assistance.
  • Office of Emergency Managementwill provide information on how to prepare your home and family for disasters. This will include information on area hazards, basic preparedness guidance, information on unreinforced masonry buildings, and the City’s alert and notification system, Alert Seattle.
  • Office of Housing,a City department focused on affordable housing programs and policies, will have information about free energy efficiency improvements for your home, home repair loans, help in purchasing your first home, or assistance in finding affordable housing.
  • Rebuilding Together Seattleis a nonprofit that provides free health- and safety-focused home repairs for low income homeowners. They will answer any questions about their program and will have applications and information available at their table.
  • Seattle City Lightwill have information about energy-saving tips, available rebates for your home, and how to buy the right LED bulb and take advantage of in-store instant discounts on LEDs.
  • Seattle Department of Neighborhoodswill be providing information on the new Community Involvement Commission and how to apply, along with soliciting project ideas for the Your Voice, Your Choice: Parks & Streets participatory budget program.
  • The Seattle Hubstable will be staffed by Rainer Beach Ready volunteers who will describe how the Emergency Communications Hubs function, where the Rainier Beach Hub is located and have quick tips and multi-language brochures on how to be prepared and communicate during an emergency, as well as information on establishing new hubs in other South Seattle neighborhoods.
  • Seattle Public Utilitieswill discuss their RainWise program. RainWise provides rebates to cover most or all the cost of installing cisterns and rain gardens. To receive a rebate, you must live in an eligible combined sewer overflow basin. Seattle Public Utilities will help you determine if your property qualifies.


For more information about the South Seattle Home Fair, contact:

Moon Callison
(206) 615-1486


*There is a lift to help those who need assistance accessing the second floor.

New Deposit and Move-in Fee Limits and Payment Plans

The City of Seattle has made important changes to the City’s Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance.  Future rental agreements in the City of Seattle must follow these requirements. This is a summary of the key changes.

Security Deposit, Pet Deposit, and Move-in Fee Limits – New limits on deposits and fees that can be charged at the beginning of a new rental agreement include:

  • Security deposit plus move-in fees cannot exceed the amount of the first full month’s rent
  • Pet deposits are limited to 25% of the amount of first full month’s rent
  • Non-refundable move-in fees are limited to only tenant screening reports, criminal background checks, credit reports, and cleaning fees.
  • Total non-refundable move-in fees are limited to 10% of the first full month’s rent


Payment Plans Required –Landlords must allow an installment plan to pay a security deposit, a pet deposit, move-in fees, and last month’s rent.  The payment plan must be structured as follows, unless otherwise agreed to by the landlord and tenant

  • For rental agreements of 6 months or longer—6 consecutive and equal payments
  • For agreements between 30 days and 6 months—4 consecutive and equal payments
  • For month-to-month agreements—2 equal installments; except for pet deposits, which can be paid in 3 equal monthly installments.


Security Deposit Returns –  The requirements for security deposit returns have not changed.  However, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections may now investigate and take action if a landlord improperly withholds a deposit return or in other cases where the City’s rental agreement regulations are not followed.  Important points in the existing security deposit return requirements are:

  • The tenant and landlord must have signed a move-in condition checklist.
  • Security deposits must be returned within 21 days of the tenant leaving the property.
  • The reasons for withholding any portion of a deposit return must be itemized in writing and provided to the former tenant within 21 days of tenant vacating the property.


The new deposit and move-in fee limits and payment plan requirements do not apply to tenants in an owner-occupied single family dwelling, including attached accessory dwelling units.

Click here to read the new law.  Updated detailed information will soon be available at 607 on the website will contain most of the detailed information.  Information for Tenants on the website is also being updated to reflect the new law.  A new version of Information for Tenants must be provided to each tenant household with each new rental agreement.

The changes are effective January 15, 2017.  The City recognizes that these changes are significant and have come quickly.  As we carry out the new law, we will follow our usual approach of offering assistance and information to rental property owners, working with property owners to voluntarily correct the situation if the rules are not followed, and only taking enforcement action when voluntary corrections are not made.  To increase awareness of the new requirements we are funding a landlord training and education project in 2017 and significantly increasing City outreach efforts.

As always, SDCI staff are available answer questions regarding any of the City’s rental housing ordinances.  Please call (206) 615-0808 and ask for assistance.

New Rules for Landlords Help Protect Tenants

On July 10, new legislation became effective that prohibits rent increases on units that fail to meet minimum rental housing standards and gives Seattle DCI enforcement authority over “prohibited acts by owners.”

The ordinance is housed in the Prohibited acts by owners section of Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 22.206.180.

Properties That Do Not Meet Basic Standards

Landlords are now prohibited from raising rents on units that do not meet minimum standards listed on the Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) checklist. The Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance requires all owners of rental housing units in the city of Seattle to register with Seattle DCI.  The RRIO checklist identifies the most important, minimum, rental standards required in all rental units.

If a tenant gets a rent increase notice and believes the increase cannot take effect due to conditions in their unit believed to fail the RRIO checklist under the new rules, the tenant must inform the landlord in writing (e-mail is allowed). After receiving notice of any conditions that would fail the RRIO checklist, tenants may then contact Seattle DCI through the general complaint line at (206) 615-0808. Both renters and owners can request an inspection. Seattle DCI will inspect the unit and determine whether the rent increase should be deferred until the landlord makes repairs. If Seattle DCI inspects after a rent increase becomes effective and finds conditions that fail the checklist, the landlord will be required to provide the tenant a refund or rent credit of the difference until the condition is amended.

New Rent Increase Notice Requirements

Landlords who wish to raise housing costs, defined as rent plus periodic monthly fees, must now include language in the written notice describing how tenants may reach Seattle DCI for information on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. Example language will be available at

It is now a “prohibited act” to fail to give proper notice of a rent increase. In Seattle, if the increase to the tenant’s housing costs is less than 10 percent of the amount charged over the preceding 12 months, landlords must give tenants the notice at least 30 days before the effective date of the increase. If the increase is for 10 percent or more of the last year’s housing costs, the landlord must give tenants the notice of increase 60 days in advance. Seattle DCI can now enforce this longstanding Seattle requirement.

Illegal Evictions and Entries

 With the support of the Seattle Police Department, Seattle DCI will now enforce prohibitions against illegally evicting tenants by locking them out of their units, discontinuing utility services furnished by the landlord, removing fixtures or fuses, or otherwise attempting to remove or exclude a tenant except pursuant to the legal process.

The department will also act on illegal entries into a tenant’s housing unit. Unless an emergency exists, tenants must be given at least 2 days’ notice of intent to enter at a reasonable time with the tenant’s consent for inspections and repairs. The landlord must give at least 1 day notice for the purpose of showing the unit to prospective buyers or tenants.

Retaliation and Organizing

Seattle DCI may now enforce prohibited acts related to retaliation. Landlords are prohibited from evicting, raising rent, reducing services or otherwise taking punitive action against tenants in response to a good faith complaint made to Seattle DCI, the Seattle Police Department, or the courts. Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants that attempt to assert the rights granted to them by law. Additionally, landlords cannot prohibit tenants and their agents from engaging in certain efforts related to tenant organization.

More Information

Landlords and renters can find more information about the new rules and other requirements for renting in Seattle at or by calling Seattle DCI at (206) 615-0808.