Chronic Nuisance Properties

Property owners and operators violate the law when they allow a chronic nuisance property to exist. The Seattle Municipal Code (SMC 10.09) defines a chronic nuisance property, sets out procedures for declaring a property a chronic nuisance, and determines the remedies for fixing the property.

Not every nuisance property rises to the level of a chronic nuisance. These have three or more nuisance activities within 60 days or seven or more nuisance activities within 12 months. Nuisance activities include assaults, fighting, drug dealing, prostitution, gang and weapons-related violations. They do not include barking dogs, junk storage or the neighborhood jerk who yells at passing children.

The police chief has the power to declare a property a chronic nuisance. Before doing so, the chief will review the evidence showing that the minimum number of nuisance activities has been met. The chief will then send a letter to the property owner and person in charge, notifying them of the declaration. Property owners and persons in charge are expected to respond to the declaration and work with the police department to abate or eliminate the nuisance. If they fail to work with the police department and correct the problems, the person in charge may be penalized $500 per day and the property owner may be fined $25,000.

Before the police department will review a case for chronic nuisance declaration, the problems with the property must be well-documented by police reports and calls to 911 directly associated with the property. Problems at the parking lot across the street may not be enough to declare a chronic nuisance.

If members of a community believe they have a chronic nuisance property, they should work closely with the Community Police Team in their police precinct. Often the police find that working with the property owner and person in charge is enough to resolve the problems.

Seattle's Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance may be found at:
clerk.seattle.gov/~public/toc/10-09.htm

SPD's Community Police Teams:
www.seattle.gov/police/maps/precinct_map.htm