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Seattle's rental inspection code requires that all registered rental properties be inspected at least once every 10 years.
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Seattle's rental inspection code requires that all registered rental properties be inspected at least once every 10 years.

Tenants sue over mandatory Seattle rental inspections

The City of Seattle is facing a class-action lawsuit over the way it inspects rental housing units. At issue: people's privacy at home.

The City of Seattle inspects thousands of rental apartments and homes each year, chosen randomly, to ensure they're up to code. Tenants who don't want inspections, for privacy or other reasons, say they should have the option to deny them.

Bill Maurer is an attorney for the Institute for Justice, the national law firm that filed the suit.

Maurer: "If the city thinks that there is an actual problem with a person's home, then they can go get a warrant, but what they can't do is what they're doing here, which is saying to tenants, 'You have to let inspectors in whether you want them there or not.'"

Maurer says the city needs to offer a way for tenants to deny the inspections, which is not an option now. He says landlords who are parties in the class action lawsuit have heard from the city that they could face fines if their tenants deny inspectors.

The Seattle city attorney's office says it will defend the rental inspections law, which it says is "meant to ensure the habitability of rental properties."

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Maurer says unless there's a credible concern about someone's rental unit, state law grants tenants the right to privacy.

Maurer: "Some people don't like the idea of a stranger being in the most intimate areas of their life, and the Washington constitution protects their ability to reject the ability of the government to enter into those areas unless they get a warrant."

Maurer's firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of nine tenants and landlords.