In 2007 the City significantly increased fines for landlords and property owners who refuse to repair dilapidated homes, turn their backyards into junkyards or let bushes and weeds grow out of control. City council adopted the Weeds and Vegetation Enforcement Ordinance 122396 and Housing and Building Maintenance Code Ordinance 122397, effective June 22, 2007, and the Land Use Enforcement Ordinance 122407, effective July 5, 2007.
The changes to the city’s land use, housing and weed codes increased fines, added citations for overgrown yards and made it easier to charge criminal penalties for the most flagrant cases. Most people in Seattle take pride in their community and do a good job of keeping their property and homes in shape. But one bad landowner can create health and safety issues that impact an entire neighborhood.
Here is a summary of changes to the enforcement sections of the Seattle Land Use Code, the Housing Building and Maintenance Code, and the Weeds and Vegetation Ordinance.
- Daily fines for violations of the Housing Building Maintenance Code increased from $15 per day to $150 per day for the first 10 days of noncompliance, and then up to $500 per day.
- Daily fines for violations of the Land Use Code increased from $75 per day to $150 per day for the first 10 days of noncompliance, and then up to $500 per day.
- Violations for vegetation encroaching on streets, sidewalks and alleys are addressed through a quicker, more direct citation system, with the citation for a first offense set at $150 and a second at $500.
- The City has the option of seeking criminal instead of civil penalties. Previously, criminal penalties for violations other than hazardous conditions could only be sought if the person had received a judgment from court in the past five years.
The changes are directed at repeat offenders who negatively impact their neighborhoods and their tenants with substandard housing; zoning violations, such as auto repair and outdoor junk storage in single family neighborhoods; and chronic vegetation violations that create hazards for pedestrians and drivers, such as blocking views at intersections.
The codes are enforced by DPD, which handles over 3,000 of this type of complaint a year. The city collected more than $137,000 in fines in 2006. The changes will help the department more efficiently address the demand from the community for holding negligent landowners accountable. A portion of the fines collected fund the abatement of unfit buildings and premises, and the rest go to the General Fund and to a Parks fund.