The City of Bellingham receives numerous requests for help from tenants and property owners on issues around rental housing. A resident of the City of Bellingham that has concerns regarding substandard conditions can call into the Permit Center or submit a Code Enforcement Request (pdf).
In addition, the following information was compiled to assist tenants and rental owners in understanding their rights and responsibilities, and to identify useful resources available to our community.
The legal framework regulating rental housing
Fair Housing -
BMC 10.48.030. The City of Bellingham has codified certain aspects of renter rights that will be enforced in the City. General information on
fair housing is also available on our website.
Obtaining legal or resolution assistance. Tenants may find themselves in situations requiring legal information, or assistance from an attorney.
Law Advocates runs local clinics on landlord-tenant law and may provide a referral to a lawyer under certain circumstances. Income-qualified tenants can call Law Advocates’ Coordinated Legal Education, Advice, & Referral (CLEAR) line between 9:15 AM and 12:15 PM Monday through Friday at 1-888-201-1014. Renters or rental owners may mediate disputes through the resolution process; contact the
Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center at 360-676-0122 for details.
The State’s Legal Framework. The state
Residential Landlord-Tenant Act creates the over-arching rules for the landlord-tenant relationship. The act defines rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants, identifies permitted elements in leases, and sets forth procedures for owners and tenants to assert their rights in court. The Washington State Bar Association's brochure entitled
Landlord-Tenant Rights clearly explains the key aspects of the state law.
Two Seattle-based organizations provide helpful information on renters right’s under state law:
Resolving maintenance issues in rental housing. The Landlord-Tenant Act (Sec. 59.18.060) details what standards must be maintained by the rental owner. This section (Sec. 59.18.115) identifies procedures that tenants need to follow to address health and safety issues in rentals.
Other City Programs
City regulations affecting tenants or owners
The following are some of the codes that help reduce conflict and maintain the livability of neighborhoods in Bellingham. If you don't see a particular issue listed below, you may try going directly to the
Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) and searching for it.
Other links and contacts
Click here for some resources that might be of assistance in looking to find affordable housing in Bellingham.
Resources for students.
Campus-Community Coalition provides a forum for strengthening connections between neighborhood residents and Western Washington University students.
Opportunity Council provides help with energy bills and home repair to improve efficiency and conservation.
Financial Literacy for Renters.
- The Opportunity Council sponsors a program for Financial Literacy and Renter Education (FLARE). The program includes classes to teach budgeting and basic skills to renters. Call (360) 734-5121 for information.
Rental Housing Association of Washington.
agency will provide limited assistance (for non-member landlords and tenants) regarding rights and responsibilities.\
- Relocation assistance.
- The Northwest Justice Project can assist tenants who are having to move because of substandard rental conditions and can be reached at 1-888-201-1014. The Law Advocates Tenant Clinic may also be contacted.