Kent residents aren’t taking advantage of their housing rights

Justine Stump

Leaking faucets, broken appliances and unsafe wiring will no longer go unfixed if landlords neglect to make necessary repairs.

City council passed an interior maintenance code last semester that can force landlords to make repairs if a house has an interior code violation. Previously, members of the Kent Building Services Division could only enforce the repair of exterior home issues, but with the new ordinance, they may enter a home for interior inspection if a legal resident invites them. However, Bridget Susel, acting director of the Kent Community Development Department, said she thinks the ordinance is still relatively unknown.

“We’ve only had a couple calls so far,” Susel said. “I don’t think word has gotten out that [the code] now covers the interior.”

About 60 percent of housing in Kent is rental property, and the majority of those units are for student rentals. However, Susel said the department doesn’t hear from many students.

“Quite honestly we get a lot of calls from parents of students at the beginning of the school year who are concerned about the environment their child will be living in,” Susel said.

In the case of rentals, the owner would be fined $100 for a code violation. The owner would then have ten days to correct a problem. If the owner fails to do so, he or she would be fined again. After the third time, owners can be taken to court.

Before the city gets involved, Susel said she suggests a tenant first contact their landlord about a problem. If it’s a safety concern and it’s not addressed within 24 hours, tenants should file a complaint with the city.

The only way a city inspector is allowed on a property is to be invited in by a tenant — someone who has a legal agreement to be living there — or have the owner invite him in. Once the inspector is inside, he can address the concerns of the tenant.

Councilwoman Tracy Wallach said she voted against the code in March because it technically applies to everyone, not just renters, which she felt was an intrusion on privacy.

“I’m starting to investigate ways that we can go into just rental properties,” Wallach said. “I feel that having the blanket interior code is a little too extreme, including the private properties.”

Susel said the interior maintenance code was something the Department of Community Development brought to city council on two previous occasions.

“One of the things that is most important to a community is safe and decent housing,” Susel said. “Not being able to address issues on the interior of a house can really affect people’s quality of life.”

If you have a code violation to report, the Department of Community Development asks you contact them at 330-768-8108, or you can file a report online at

Contact Justine Stump at [email protected].