Katie Whaley, Coordinator
Rental Housing Inspection Program
Does the City of Kent have the authority to create the RHIP?
The Washington State Legislature has authorized local municipalities to establish rental inspection programs that require certificates of inspection as a business license condition. The City of Kent’s Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP) was created in accordance with RCW 59.18.125.
What type of housing requires inspections?
Multi-family residential (apartments), which includes residential buildings designed for or occupied by three or more families.
What are the exempted residential housing units?
- Owner-occupied single-family residences
- Units unavailable for rent
- Housing accommodations in a hotel, motel, or similar transient lodging
- Housing accommodations at an institution, whether public or private, where residence is merely incidental or detention or the provision of medical, religious, educational, recreational or similar services including but not limited to correctional facilities, licensed nursing homes, monasteries and convents, and hospitals
- Owner-occupied mobile homes or manufactured homes, both as defined in Chapter 59.20 RCW
- Shelters and transitional housing
- Rental units that a government unit, agency, or authority owns, operates, or manages, or that are specifically exempted from such a registration requirement by state or federal law or administrative regulation. This exemption does not apply once the governmental ownership, operation, or management is discontinued.
- A rental property that has received a certificate of occupancy within the last 4 years and has had no code violations reported on the property during that period.
Is Section 8 housing exempt from inspection?
The health and safety inspection conducted by the King County Housing Authority is viewed as equivalent to a RHIP inspection. Landlords currently enrolled in Section 8 may submit proof of most recent passed KCHA inspection by October 1st, in order to renew their multi-family business license by January 1st.
What is being inspected?
Health and safety components, including but not limited to: structural integrity; weather exposure; plumbing & sanitation; heat, water, and water facilities; ventilation systems; defective or hazardous electrical wiring and/or service; safe and functional exits; smoke & carbon monoxide detectors. These components are consistent with RCW 59.18 and the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC).
Does every unit have to be inspected?
20 percent of the total number of units must be inspected every 3 years, which is consistent with RCW 59.18.125. The specific units will be randomly selected by the City.
What are the requirements of the notification to the tenants?
Prior to the inspection occurring, written notification of the upcoming inspections shall be sent to all units. The notice shall advise tenants that 20% of the units at the property will be inspected and that those in need of repairs should send written notice to the landlord as provided in RCW 59.18.070. The notice must also advise tenants that if the landlord fails to adequately respond to the request for repairs the tenant may contact City of Kent officials.
48 hours prior to the inspection date, a written notification of intent to allow an inspector to enter must be provided to the tenants of units selected for inspection. The notice must indicate the date & 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, in accordance with RCW 59.18.150(6). A copy of the notices must be provided to the inspector upon request on the day of inspection. Landlords may use this template.
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) may be subject to a penalty of up to $100 per violation as outlined in RCW 59.18.150(8).
Is new construction required to be inspected?
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 per KCC 10.02.070.F.3 and RCW 59.18.125(4)(a).
How does this program benefit tenants?
Over time, this program is expected to improve living conditions in rental apartments city-wide. While a resident can report unsafe living conditions to Kent Code Enforcement at any time by calling (253) 856-5409 or emailing CodeEnforcement@KentWA.gov, some residents do not self-report for fear of landlord retaliation. The Landlord Tenant Act (RCW 59.18) protects tenants from retaliation, but creation of this program is intended to address rental property issues proactively without the need for self-reporting.
What do tenants need to know about the inspection process?
When your rental unit is scheduled for an inspection, the property owner or manager must, in accordance with RCW 59.18.150(6) provide 48 hours' written notice. As the tenant you may ask for the inspector’s ID before they enter the unit. Denying access after proper notice has been given may violate state law, and may result in a penalty of up to $100 per violation (RCW 59.18.150(1) and (8). Please keep in mind that the inspectors are looking out for your best interest.
How much does the program cost?
Landlords can expect a $13 per unit RHIP program fee and a $15 per building fee to submit the report. The City does not determine the fee charged by private inspectors nor the cost of repairs, but the inspectors offer a wide range of prices and our checklist is available to help with preparation and budgeting.
Will this program affect my rent?
There are many factors that go into determining rent. Although the City does not control the private market, we are trying to create a minimum standard for health and safety. We've heard stories of horrible living conditions in our community and people feeling forced to stay there, which is not something we're willing to accept for our residents.
It might be a while before the property I am renting is inspected, but I have concerns now. What can tenants do?
Tenants should always report an issue to their landlord. We have heard that some tenants are afraid to complain for fear of eviction. We want to assue you, tenants are protected from wrongful eviction by state law and there are people who can help with free legal assistance. For information and resources available please see the landlord and tenant issue resource; The Landlord Tenant Act (RCW 59.18). If the landlord doesn't address the issue, please report unsafe living conditions to Kent Code Enforcement at any time by calling (253) 856-5409 or emailing CodeEnforcement@KentWA.gov
How can I find out if a rental property is complying?
If a rental property has passed inspection through the Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP), a Certificate of Compliance must be posted in a visible and shared location at each multifamily location: such as lobbies, mailrooms, or onsite leasing offices. 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 RHIP. If you discover a rental property is not registered, notify the City by emailing RHIP@KentWA.gov or 253-856-5550.
How can tenants assist with the implementation of this program?
Tenants are essential to the success of RHIP and can assist in several ways:
- Encourage the property owner or landlord to register the property;
- Learn about maintenance standards and notify the owner or landlord when things need repair;
- Contact the City of Kent if the owner or landlord is not complying with RHIP.