Proposed Bill: 90 Days Notice For Some Rent Increases

housing-marketMost renters have probably experienced it – opening your mailbox to find a notice that your rent is going up. Often, increases come in $50 or $100 increments, but in Seattle’s booming rental market, some are seeing their rents rise by $1,000 or more at a time. Most renters can’t absorb these exorbitant hikes, and Washington State’s Landlord Tenant Law only requires landlords to give 30 days notice for rent changes (60 days in the City of Seattle), giving tenants a short window to find a new home. But according to Crosscut, Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) is planning to introduce legislation that would require landlords across the board to give 90 days notice if they raise rents by more than 10 percent. The notification period for increases of 10 percent or less would remain at 30 days. For renters who don’t have much cushion in their savings account, this would give them more time to save up enough cash for move-in fees such as first and last months’ rent and a security deposit. According to King-5, the Rental Housing Association of Washington will fight the bill.

Kohl-Welles will also introduce legislation to prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of their participation in a government assistance program such as Section 8, which provides rent vouchers for households making 30 percent or less of the area’s median income. The bill would be aimed at landlords who either prohibit those in such a program from applying for housing altogether, or who don’t give them equal consideration with those not enrolled in an assistance program.

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

 

Renters In Older Buildings Blindsided By Rent Hikes

rentWith all the talk about record-high rents in the Seattle area, you may look around at the high-rise apartments sprouting up in South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and Ballard and think you’ve found the culprits for our status as the U.S.’s 8th most expensive city for renters. But here’s a surprising statistic reported recently by Sanjay Bhatt at The Seattle Times: rents in older buildings are actually rising at faster rates than those in newer ones. Rents in buildings built in the 1980’s grew by a rate of 8.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, whereas rents in buildings newer than 2010 grew by only 1.4 percent (granted, rents in these buildings are much higher to start with).

Renters who care little about granite counter tops and rooftop decks have historically been able to rent units for reasonable rates in older buildings that offer function without the flash. But as many of these mid-century buildings approach 60 or 70 years old, they’re being sold off to development groups who pass on renovation costs to tenants in the form of rent hikes. For residents such as those at the Linda Manor Apartments in West Seattle (a building built in 1964), those hikes came in the form of a 130 percent increase, according to The Seattle Times. One resident saw her rent rise from $1,000 per month to $2,300 per month.

With the addition of 86,000 new residents over the past four years and just under 29,000 new units built over the same time period, housing is at a premium and a low vacancy rate in King County is creating stiff competition for renters. Because of that, landlords are having no trouble filling units, even with ever-rising rents.

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

 

 

Renting Half As Affordable As Buying In the U.S.

eastlakecdIf you’re a renter, think about the amount you write on that check every month. Is it inching toward 30 percent of your monthly income? According to a new report by Zillow, gone are the days when mortgage rates made home ownership prohibitively expensive and renting was the affordable option. They report that the average renter in the U.S. is spending 30 percent of their monthly earnings on housing, and Seattle renters spend a little more than 30 percent, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Owning a home can cut that percentage in half, as homeowners pay only about 15 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage. Historically, renters have paid about 25 percent of their income toward rent.

Rents in Seattle are up a staggering 21.5 percent over the past five years, and with incomes only having grown 10.4 percent over that same span, renters are increasingly burdened with monthly housing costs. With mortgage interest rates hovering around 4 percent, first-time buyers in the U.S. are only spending an average of 17.5 percent on housing, even with many only paying a 5 percent down payment. Zillow says that even if interest rates rose to 7 percent, buying a home would be more affordable than it has been historically.

So, if you are looking to save on monthly housing costs, start saving those pennies for a down payment! If you are interested in real estate in the Seattle area, contact your local agent today.

Deadline Is Here For Registering Rental Properties With 10+ Units

Schack1_bigLast October the City of Seattle passed the Rental Regulation & Inspection Ordinance that aims to establish a standard for cleanliness and healthy living conditions for all rental properties in the city, and the deadline for the first phase – registering properties with 10 or more units in preparation for inspections – is tomorrow, September 30. Inspections are expected to begin early next year, and inspectors will be looking to make sure that all carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors, locks, windows, hot and cold water, and a heat source are working; making sure there are no infestation issues; and that walls, roofs, and ceilings are in good condition.

The ordinance was put in place after a 2009 survey revealed that an estimated 10 percent of the 148,000 rental units in Seattle had “moderate to severe” physical problems. Over the next two years, most rental properties in Seattle will be required to register and subsequently be inspected, with the exception of owner-occupied properties where an individual room is being rented out, and “accessory dwelling units” that are occupied by an immediate family member of an owner. Units that already have inspection reports on file will not need to be re-inspected.

The city is hoping the ordinance will encourage owners to keep rental units up to the same minimum standard and deal with maintenance issues without having to rely on tenant complaints. Units will be inspected at least once every 10 years, and eventually prospective renters will be able view an online database of all registered properties that have passed inspection. Read more about the program here.

If you are interested in renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Proposed Bill Would Make Micro-Housing More Expensive To Build

Thousands of tiny apartments, often called “apodments”, have been built in Seattle over the past several years, and they haven’t been a huge hit with many neighbors who live near them. More akin to dorm rooms than to traditional apartments, many of the units are only 150 square feet – about the size of a parking space – and occupy tall, narrow buildings that are often out of scale with the neighborhood and usually don’t provide any parking for residents, even in densely populated areas of the city such as Capitol Hill.

Micro Apartment sketch from Biz Journal

Micro Apartment sketch from Biz Journal

But the Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting that a new bill proposed by a Seattle City Council committee would put in place new regulations that could dramatically curtail this type of building. Under the new legislation, micro-housing would be subject to the Design Review Board, which can cost developers an extra $200,000 (currently they do not have to go through the design review process); units would have to be a minimum of 220 square feet; and builders would have to provide some parking spaces and possibly bicycle parking areas. The council vote on the new legislation is scheduled for October 6.

If you are interested in rentals in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Seattle One Of Top 10 Most Expensive Cities For Renters

housing-marketIf you’re a renter in Seattle you don’t need telling that it costs a pretty penny to live here, but we now have census data that confirms our rents are up there with the most expensive in the country. The Seattle Times is reporting that Seattle finally cracked the top ten on the list of cities boasting the highest median rent, with a cost of $1,172 per month.

Between 2010 and 2013 rents here also saw the steepest increase of the top 50 most populous cities in the U.S., having risen by $113 per month (including utilities), or 11 percent. $1,172 is the median cost of what renters are currently paying in Seattle, so it does not reflect many newer apartment buildings that are listing un-rented units for much higher prices. Surprisingly, the number of renters in Seattle has kept pace with rising rents – in 2013 there were 307,000 renters here, a 13 percent increase from 2010.

Click here to see a chart of the top 10 most expensive cities for renters. If you would like more information on renting in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Learn To Compost In Your Apartment With Seattle Tilth

Seattle Tilth

Do you live in an apartment, or just have limited space in your home, and want to learn how to compost? Seattle Tilth, an organization whose mission is to educate the public about sustainable food systems, is hosting a free workshop on July 15 geared specifically toward composting in small spaces.

The workshop will teach participants about “vermiculture”, or worm composting, which creates a rich compost that is ideal for fertilizing your garden. If you live in an apartment and are able to keep a balcony garden, this is a great way to make it sustainable by using leftover food scraps. The workshop is free and will be taking place at Victor Steinbrueck Park, just west of Pike Place Market. Pre-registration is required, and you can do that here.

If your building isn’t ideal for gardening but you still want to find somewhere to put your food scraps other than the landfill, take advantage of the the City of Seattle’s food waste recycling program. Every apartment building with more than five units is required to have a food waste cart available for residents to use, so check with your building to make sure they do!

If you would like more information about renting an apartment in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

 

 

 

 

Data Shows Half Of Seattle Renters Live Alone

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According to the most recent census data reported by The Seattle Times, Seattle’s population of renters is living up to the city’s reputation for introverted residents. 51 percent of the city’s rent-paying tenants live alone, which is a surprising statistic considering that the average rent in Seattle is now $1,480, up 21 percent from five years ago. Only Atlanta has a larger percentage of solo renters, and most other cities toward the top of the list (Cincinnati, St. Louis and Pittsburgh) have average rents significantly lower than Seattle’s.

But despite the significant rental costs, it appears Seattleites are willing to pay more in order to not have to share their space. No sinks full of your roommate’s dishes (just your own), no fighting over the parking space, and no sharing any of that precious square footage. Single-occupancy units are clustered more heavily in certain areas of the city, including downtown, where three out of every four units is occupied by a single person, and other densely populated neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Eastlake, and Fremont.

Though the rate of solo renters is high comparable to other cities, the percentage has dropped from 56 percent in 2009, so it appears renters may be starting to feel the squeeze of rising rents. For more information about renting in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

 

Current Stats On Seattle’s Apartment Rentals Market

nate rental dt

PubliCola has some interesting statistics on the Seattle rentals market, pulled from the April 1 city council planning committee meeting, where Mike Scott of the rental-market analysis firm Dupre+Scott gave his take on the situation. In summary:

– Supply and demand has affected rent fluctuation more than increased development has. According to Dupre+Scott, low housing supply has led to increased rents, and an excess of available apartments pushes rent down, in line with the classic supply and demand model.

– While average rent in the Seattle market as a whole has gone up in recent years, that is mostly due to the inclusion of newer apartment buildings that rent units at rates from $1,300 to $2,000 per month. Rents at older buildings (built before 2009 with rents between $800 and $1,300 per month) have actually risen at a slower rate than the cost of maintaining them has. The age of the building you choose to live in will often have a dramatic influence on what your rent will be: For apartments built in 1997 or earlier, the average rent is $1,100 per month, whereas rents in buildings newer than that average $1,700 per month.

– Think you’ll get more space for your money with those higher rents? Average square footage has actually decreased from 750 square feet in the mid-90s to 650 square feet today.

– More rental-housing development is happening in the city of Seattle than in the suburbs, and the trend seems to be toward smaller apartments in denser areas where public transportation is readily available and residents can walk to restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores. In certain Seattle neighborhoods the number of apartments available for rent is growing by huge percentages. In Ballard, for example, the number of rental units available is expected to grow by 250 percent between 2009 and 2018, and downtown could see a 200 percent increase in the same time span.

Interested in renting in Seattle? Contact your local real estate agent for more information!