Rental Regulations under Review

January 3rd, 2018 - Catherine A. Moore

The Bellingham City Council is currently considering amending Bellingham’s landlord-tenant code to offer greater protections to residential tenants. It held a public hearing on December 4, 2017, and further considered these proposed amendments on December 11, 2017. The proposed amendments are in response to Bellingham’s extremely low rental vacancy rate and rising rents, which appear to be pushing some tenants out of the local housing market.

Three main changes are proposed. First, discrimination based on source of income will be prohibited. This means that a landlord will no longer be able to deny a potential tenant because that tenant relies on Section 8, social security, or another form of assistance for income. However, the landlord could still consider other financial factors when screening tenants, such as credit score. Tenants will be able to sue potential landlords for violating this rule and the city can also impose fines.

Second, landlords in Bellingham will be required to give their tenants 60 days’ notice before increasing rent by 10% or more. This requirement can be waived in very specific circumstances. State law currently requires only 30 days’ written notice for increases in rent for month-to-month tenants.

Third, in order to terminate the tenancy of a month-to-month tenant, a landlord will be required to give a tenant notice of intent to end the tenancy at least 60 days before the end of the final rental period. Current state law allows either landlord or tenant to end a month-to-month tenancy with 20 days’ written notice. The proposed changes to Bellingham’s municipal code do not change the tenant’s obligation to give only 20 days’ notice of intent to vacate. These changes would also not affect a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant for cause.

There is one main exception to all of these proposed rules: a landlord or sublessor living in the same dwelling unit as the tenant would not be required to follow these rules. And of course, if you live outside Bellingham city limits, these rules will not apply to you.

If you want to get involved, there is still time for the Bellingham City Council to consider your input. The Council will consider these amendments to the code at either its January 8 or 22, 2018 regular meeting, which will be open to the public. If you are unable to attend a meeting in person, you may email a comment to

We will publish a blog updating this information when the City Council votes to approve or deny these code amendm

Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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