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Following a comprehensive development process, the city of Seattle began accepting registrations this month for its Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) program.

The new program enacts mandatory registration and inspections for rental housing in the city, with the intent of maintaining and improving the quality of its rental-housing stock, and ensuring that all rental properties meet the same minimum standards.

Inspections will begin in early 2015, with a portion of registered properties inspected each year.

What does this mean for renters in Seattle?

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Tenants should be aware that this new program will mean an occasional interruption in their daily life when the time comes for an inspection and/or repairs related to compliance with the program.

Rental owners must hire either a city inspector or qualified private inspector. For a city inspector, the fee is $130 per property, including the first unit, and $25 for each additional unit.

Properties must be inspected every 10 years.

Deadlines for registration are based on the number of units per property, starting with larger multifamily properties and working down to single-family and accessory-dwelling-unit (ADU) rentals by 2015 and 2016.

For properties with 10 or more units, the deadline is Sept. 30. For properties with five to nine units, it’s March 31, 2015. Properties with one to four units will register during 2015 and 2016; deadline will be determined by ZIP code

Registration cost is $175 per property, which includes the first unit, plus $2 for each additional unit, and is valid for five years.

To streamline the registration process, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development has developed an online system for rental-property registration and payment. The site went live last week at; registration can also be completed in person or by mail.

Exemptions to the registration requirements apply to certain units owned or managed by a government entity or housing authority; institutional housing such as nursing homes and hospitals; transitional housing; housing associated with a religious order; or short-term rental housing, including vacation rentals, dorms and hotels.

Owner-occupied homes with rooms for rent also do not need to be registered. But ADUs, which are separate living spaces within a house or on the same property as an existing house — also known as mother-in-law units — are required to register.

Rental owners and tenants are encouraged to watch for informational mailings, meeting invitations and other notifications that will be sent out by the city in July.

Sean Martin is the director of external affairs of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, a not-for-profit association of more than 5,000 landlord members statewide. Rental Resource is the organization’s biweekly column. For more information for landlords or tenants, visit

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