Vacant Buildings

See also: Vacant Buildings Code UpdatesVacant Building StandardsWeeds & Vegetation Code

What Is It?

Vacant buildings, like this one, must be secured to prevent entry.Vacant buildings in Seattle must be secured and maintained to prevent unauthorized entry and deterioration from the weather. Our Housing and Building Maintenance Code contains the City’s Vacant Building Maintenance standards.

If a vacant building becomes so deteriorated that it poses a danger to the public, we may seek an order allowing abatement – a court order granting us permission to enter onto the property and demolish the building. Before asking for a court order, we send a notice to the property owner and provide an opportunity for a hearing.

What It Isn’t

This ordinance does not cover:

  • Unauthorized or criminal activity, squatters, or vagrants in vacant buildings; contact the Seattle Police Department at (206) 625-5011 (non-emergency) or 911
  • Graffiti; contact Seattle Public Utilities graffiti prevention and removal program
  • Rodent (e.g., rat) infestation; contact the Seattle-King County Health Department at (206) 296-0100
  • Vacant commercial buildings are handled first by the Seattle Fire Department; contact us if the Fire Department doesn’t have the authority to address an issue

Rules to Follow

Our ordinance requires that you:

  • Keep your vacant building in good repair, secured from unauthorized entry, and protected from the weather
  • Keep the grounds free of junk, parked cars, and overgrown vegetation
  • Remove deteriorating or unsafe building parts, such as staircases that may pose a danger to firefighters or other city personnel

Read the Code

Read the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) sections on the vacant building standards SMC 22.206.200 and unfit building standards SMC 22.208.


Violations of the code may result in fines starting at $150 per day. Our vacant building monitoring fees range from $253.80 to $506.55 per quarter. If we have to board up or demolish a vacant building at the City’s expense, we will seek reimbursement and a tax lien may be placed on your property to recover those costs.