Council approves ordinance requiring 120-day notice for residential rent increases

Ordinance responds to high rent increases experienced by Bellingham renters

March 15, 2023 - by Janice Keller, Communications Director

The Bellingham City Council gave final approval on March 13, 2023, to an ordinance that requires 120 days advance notice before any rent increases for residential units. The ordinance takes effect March 28, 2023.

This change is in response to community concerns about housing affordability in general, and particular concerns about rent increases occurring in Bellingham’s extremely tight rental market. The purpose of this ordinance is to provide more time for renters to plan for rent increases or explore different housing options.

“Rents have been going up, which is hard enough on folks, but we’ve heard the greatest problem is with unexpected price hikes in a relatively short period of time. Families need time to adjust and manage costs, and that’s what this ordinance enables,” Council President Michael Lilliquist said. “It doesn’t stop rent increases, but it gives people the ability to manage their lives and household budgets. Being able to know what’s coming and know where you are going to live is important.”

The ordinance takes effect 15 days after final approval, which is March 28, 2023. Until the effective date, landlords need to provide 60-day notice to be in compliance with current regulations. After the effective date, landlords will need to provide 120-day notice. More details about the ordinance are available on the 2023 Rent Increase Notification FAQ page.

In addition to extending rent increase notice requirements, Lilliquist said, the City is examining measures enacted in other cities for consideration here in Bellingham to reduce cost barriers for people seeking to rent and to help with high upfront costs and fees.

An estimated 56% of Bellingham residents are renters, with approximately half of those renters spending more than one-third of their income on rent. Bellingham is currently experiencing an extremely tight rental market, with a 1-2% vacancy rate when typically a 3-7% vacancy rate is considered healthy. These circumstances leave some people cost-burdened and in a difficult situation, unable to afford other basic living expenses, priced out of adequate rental housing, and subject to the impacts of a competitive marketplace and/or exploitive landlord practices.

More discussion and opportunities for public feedback on renter protection measures is anticipated later this year.

More information

Media Contact

Janice Keller, Communications Director or (360) 778-8115

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