Land Use and Nuisances Legislative Update
There were several bills passed in the last legislative session that address land use, nuisance, and code enforcement issues. Here is a summary of three that may be of interest to counties, cities, and towns.
SHB 2538: Exempting Emergency Housing Shelters from Impact Fees
Buildings or structures constructed as shelters that provide emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness, or emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence, as defined in RCW 70.123.020.
Since these types of emergency housing facilities are now exempt from the definition of “development activity,” they are no longer subject to impact fees, and further legislative action by local government entities is not required to put this provision into effect. Be aware that RCW 82.02.060(3) authorizing local governments to adopt optional exemptions for non-emergency, low-income housing (subject to certain restrictions) remains in effect.
2ESHB 2057: Tackling Abandoned Properties in Mid-Foreclosure
2ESHB 2057 addresses services and processes available when residential properties have been abandoned or are in foreclosure.
Abandoned structures have long been a code enforcement problem for counties, cities, and towns. Abandoned properties are not a nuisance per se, but they can quickly become nuisances due to lack of maintenance, the presence of squatters, and other issues associated with “zombie” properties.
Many zombie properties are in the foreclosure process. The 2016 case of Jordan v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC created additional challenges for addressing zombie properties in foreclosure because the Washington Supreme Court ruled that lenders do not have right of entry for the purpose of maintaining or securing such properties until the foreclosure process has been completed. This meant local governments lost the option of requesting that lenders secure zombie properties once these are in the foreclosure process.
2ESHB 2057 addresses zombie properties that are in “mid-foreclosure.” It creates a new chapter 7.100 RCW that gives jurisdictions the option of notifying lenders of abandoned residential property. Under RCW 7.100.010 property is abandoned when there are no signs of occupancy, and the statute lists at least three out of thirteen indications of abandonment.
A county, city, or town may notify a mortgage servicer that a property has been determined to be abandoned under RCW 7.100.020. The notice must be accompanied by an affidavit or declaration that the property is abandoned, in mid-foreclosure, and a nuisance. The affidavit or declaration must outline at least three indicators of abandonment and be supported with time- and date-stamped photographs, along with other supporting documents and information. Alternatively, a mortgage servicer may, pursuant to RCW 7.100.030, request that a county, city, or town visit the property and determine whether the property is abandoned and a nuisance.
Once a mortgage servicer receives the required notice and affidavit or declaration, it is authorized to abate the nuisance in accordance with RCW 7.100.040. If the mortgage servicer does not do so within the time prescribed by local ordinance, the county, city or town may abate the nuisance. In addition, if the home is bank owned (post-foreclosure), a notice may be issued to the grantee stating that the property is a nuisance pursuant to RCW 7.100.060.
The new legislation benefits municipalities because it may result in nuisance abatement by the mortgage servicer at no cost to the municipality. In addition, if a municipality must abate, it will have a first-priority assessment of all of its abatement costs against the real property pursuant to RCW 7.100.070. That amount was otherwise capped at $2,000 under prior law.
AWC has additional information on this legislation, including a helpful, recorded webinar.
SSB 6437: Addressing the Disposal of Abandoned Recreational Vehicles
SSB 6437 addresses recreational vehicles that are abandoned on public property.
It imposes a $6.00 disposal fee, to be paid when recreational vehicles are registered, and from this, creates an abandoned recreational vehicle disposal account. It also authorizes registered tow truck operators and scrap processors to apply to the Department of Licensing for reimbursement for costs incurred in towing, dismantling, and disposing of abandoned recreational vehicles from public property. The legislation takes effect on May 1, 2019.
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