Seattle’s Sublet Law Enforced Through Fines, But Who Pays?

Posted on December 04, 2018 by LeaseAbuse

Seattle sublet enforcement fines

Seattle’s short-term rental law is set to take effect January 1st of next year. While the law itself is fairly straight forward, how the law will be enforced is not quite as clear. According to the city of Seattle website:

“If you operate a short-term rental without a short-term rental regulatory license, or if you use a platform to offer a bed and breakfast unit without a bed and breakfast operator license, you may be subject to a $500 penalty for the first violation. Second and subsequent violations are subject to $1,000 penalties…As the City begins enforcing short-term rental regulations, it will work with operators to bring them into compliance before taking a more punitive approach.”

If you are the homeowner and you directly rent out a home without applying for a license, the answer of who pays is clear – you do. But what happens when the relationship becomes more complicated? As in any major city, larger apartment buildings involve a three-pronged relationship – the owner, the property manager, and the tenant. So, who pays the fine for breaking the sublet law? The answer remains to be seen, but one story from the other side of Lake Washington could be revealing.

Bellevue landlords Rhonda Benedict-Job and Jeannie Vahlsing had been renting out properties for over two decades before receiving a complaint about one of their properties. One of their tenants had been renting out her unit through Airbnb, but the city didn’t accuse the tenant of breaking local codes. Instead, they went directly to the landlords with the threat of a $500/day fine.

The enforcement aspect of Seattle’s new sublet law will likely evolve over the coming year, but if you’re a property manager, being proactive is your best move. Please contact LeaseAbuse to see how we can help you avoid fines in the New Year.