Neighbors fight back against rooming houses

by: David Ham Updated:


SEATTLE - People who live next to a rooming house on 17th Avenue NE in Ravenna said they complained for years about a house that at one point had 13 people living there. Seventeen neighbors sent a letter to the property owner Dan Wendfeldt and the city outlining a steady pattern of "late-night noise, heavy drinking, foul language, altercations, trash, trespassing, vomiting and urinating in public, heckling of other neighbors, and one case of offering alcohol to a minor."

According to city planners only eight unrelated people are supposed to live in a single-family house. The Department of Planning and Development could not check to see if there were more than eight people living in the house earlier because the current city ordinance also states that inspectors can't enter a house without permission unless there is an obvious health or safety risk from the outside.

"The city has a new program that soon will require rental property owners to verify that their rentals meet basic housing standards," said Bryan Stevens, spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Development. "Starting mid-2014, all rental properties, including rooming houses, will need to register with the city and declare that the property meets certain basic standards. Rental properties with more than 10 rental units need to register by July 1, 2014. Properties with 5-9 units will need to register by January 1, 2015. Properties with 1-4 rental units, including single family properties that are rented, will need to register in 2015 and 2016. After registering, rental properties will be selected for inspection at least once every 10 years to verify the standards are being met."

When we asked Wendfeldt about the overcrowding, he did not comment. City planners confirmed that since being cited for having too many people inside the house, five people have moved out. Wendfeldt is facing a violation related to basic housing and safety standards that the owner will have until Nov. 30 to address or face fines.

Ruedi Risler of the University Park Community Club said the problem is widespread near the U District. "You can't sleep anymore because it's noisy and the next day you have to go and pick up the broken beer bottles," said Risler. He helped press the city to come up with the new ordinance that will allow for inspections. That ordinance goes into effect next July.

Hunter Dixon, a senior at the University of Washington, lives in a rooming house with 6 other people. He understands the concerns, but said that he relies on this type of housing because it's affordable. "I think that's just kind of disrespectful not keeping your place clean but I mean, this is a college area. We need a place close to the campus. A lot of us can't commute and live in places like Green Lake and things like that," said Dixon. Dixon pays $600 a month for a room which includes all of his utilities.


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