The City of Bellingham receives numerous requests for help from tenants and property owners on issues around rental housing. A resident of the City of Bellingham that has concerns regarding substandard conditions can call into the Permit Center or submit a Code Enforcement Request.
In addition, the following information was compiled to assist tenants and rental owners in understanding their rights and responsibilities, and to identify useful resources available to our community.
The legal framework regulating rental housing
Fair Housing – BMC 10.48.030. The City of Bellingham has codified certain aspects of renter rights that will be enforced in the City. General information on fair housing is also available on our website.
Obtaining legal or resolution assistance. Tenants may find themselves in situations requiring legal information, or assistance from an attorney. Law Advocates runs local clinics on landlord-tenant law and may provide a referral to a lawyer under certain circumstances. Income-qualified tenants can call Law Advocates’ Coordinated Legal Education, Advice, & Referral (CLEAR) line between 9:15 AM and 12:15 PM Monday through Friday at 1-888-201-1014. Renters or rental owners may mediate disputes through the resolution process; contact the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center at 360-676-0122 for details.
The State’s Legal Framework. The state Residential Landlord-Tenant Act creates the over-arching rules for the landlord-tenant relationship. The act defines rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants, identifies permitted elements in leases, and sets forth procedures for owners and tenants to assert their rights in court. The Washington State Bar Association’s brochure entitled Landlord-Tenant Rights clearly explains the key aspects of the state law.
Two Seattle-based organizations provide helpful information on renters right’s under state law:
Resolving maintenance issues in rental housing. The Landlord-Tenant Act (Sec. 59.18.060) details what standards must be maintained by the rental owner. This section (Sec. 59.18.115) identifies procedures that tenants need to follow to address health and safety issues in rentals.
Other City Programs
- Landlords and Apartment Renters Safety and Compliance Tips
- Home rehabilitation loans. The City offers low-cost loans for income-qualified rental owners.
- Lead hazards. Information on lead-based paint and remediation.
- Safety Education – videos about presentations from Police and Fire Departments
City regulations affecting tenants or owners
The following are some of the codes that help reduce conflict and maintain the livability of neighborhoods in Bellingham. If you don’t see a particular issue listed below, you may try going directly to the Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) and searching for it.
- BMC 6.11 – Source of Income Protection
- BMC 6.12 – 60 Day Notice of Rent Increase
- BMC 6.13 – 60 Day Notice to Vacate
- BMC 9.12.070 – Accumulation of Garbage and Refuse
- BMC 10.24.130 – Fireworks regulations
- BMC 10.28.020 – Nuisances Declared (property-related nuisances, etc.)
- BMC 10.60.130 – Property Owners’ Duty to Keep Premises Litter-Free
- BMC 10.24.120 – Public Disturbance Noise
- BMC 11.33.185 – Parking Within Residential Yards Prohibited
- BMC 11.33.040 – Parking not to obstruct driveways
- BMC 11.33.060 – Other parking prohibitions including parking in front of mail boxes or parking for more than 24 hours.
Other links and contacts
- Affordable Housing
- Click here for some resources that might be of assistance in looking to find affordable housing in Bellingham.
- Energy Assistance
- The Opportunity Council provides help with energy bills and home repair to improve efficiency and conservation
- Financial Literacy for Renters
- The Opportunity Council sponsors a program for Financial Literacy and Renter Education (FLARE). The program includes classes to teach budgeting and basic skills to renters. Call (360) 734-5121 for information.
- Indoor Air Quality
- Click here for information and tips from the Northwest Clean Air Agency to held you keep your indoor air clean and healthy.
- Landlord Mitigation Fund
- “Washington State’s Landlord Mitigation Law (RCW43.31.605) became effective on June 7th of 2018 to provide landlords with an incentive and added security to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. The program offers up to $1,000 to the landlord in reimbursement for some potentially required move-in upgrades, up to fourteen days’ rent loss and up to $5,000 in qualifying damages caused by a tenant during tenancy,” as outlined in the Department of Commerce’s website.
- Local resource for more information: contact Adrienne Solenberger with the Opportunity Council at 360-603-0377.
- Landlord Mitigation Info Sheet
- Mold Guidance
- Tenants and landlords both have responsibilities for addressing water and moisture problems that can cause mold. Generally, fixing leaks is the landlords’ responsibility and reducing condensation is the renter’s responsibility. More information can be found through the Washington State Department of Health.
- Rental Housing Association of Washington
- This agency will provide limited assistance (for non-member landlords and tenants) regarding rights and responsibilities.
- Relocation assistance
- The Northwest Justice Project can assist tenants who are having to move because of substandard rental conditions and can be reached at 1-888-201-1014. The Law Advocates Tenant Clinic may also be contacted.