Vacant Buildings

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

What Is It?

A woman in front of a vacant house with a question mark in a thought bubble.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.

We may add vacant buildings our Vacant Building Monitoring Program if:

  • The owner does not bring them into compliance after a complaint
  • The vacant building has multiple complaints
  • The vacant building is in the development process and is pending demolition

We inspect these buildings on a monthly basis and charge owners fees ranging from $261.40 to $571.75 per month depending on the condition of the building. Properties must have no violations for three consecutive monthly inspections to be removed from the program. We encourage owners to explore ways to keep buildings occupied while waiting for their permits to be issued.

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 $261.40 to $521.75 per month. 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.

Recent Changes

The Vacant Building Monitoring program changed on June 1, 2019.

  • Fees increased and now range from $261.40 to $521.75 depending on building condition
  • The frequency of inspections increased from quarterly to monthly
  • All development projects that include a vacant building will be enrolled in the monitoring program
  • Any property with new violations for which a Notice of Violation has been issued in the past will be enrolled in the monitoring program