If you’re experiencing difficulties with the Seattle Services Portal, please read our Frequently Asked Questions. If you need technical assistance, please contact SeattleServices_ITHelp@seattle.gov. For other assistance, please see our list of support contacts.
 Log in to Seattle Services Portal SDCI

Illegal Living Units

  • Illegal

What Is It?

Illegal units are living spaces, usually apartments including separate kitchens and bathrooms, that were installed without a permit and may not meet the City’s zoning requirements and safety standards. 

What It Isn’t

This section does not cover:

  • Rooming and boarding houses
  • Legal mother-in-law units (accessory dwelling units) that were established by permit
  • Vacation rental units

Rules to Follow

  • Owners must obtain a permit when adding a dwelling unit to a building
  • Owners must follow the rules for accessory dwelling units when adding a “mother-in-law” apartment to their own residence
  • If you are a property owner and receive a notice of violation for an illegal unit, you may be required to stop renting the unit if you cannot obtain a permit

If you are a tenant in a unit that has been identified as an illegal unit, you do not have to move until you receive a written notice to do so. In many cases the owner will be able to legalize the unit.

Tenants who are required to move out of an illegal unit must be given proper written notice. They may also be entitled to relocation assistance paid by the property owner. Please see the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) section about just cause eviction, SMC 22.206.160(C).

Read the Code


If you receive notice of a code violation and don’t fix the problem in a timely manner, we may fine you $150 to $500 a day. Additional fines are charged for violations in single-family zones. We will also charge you for inspections.

What Do You Want To Do?

Still Need Help?

 Ask Us

  • Call us at (206) 615-0808
  • Visit an Inspector or Landlord / Tenant Specialist
    Appointments are preferred.
    700 Fifth Ave., 19th floor
  • Phone and Office Hours
    M, Th, F: 8:00 a.m - 4:30 p.m
    T, W: 10:00 - 4:30 p.m.