Seattle Changes the Rules on Parking

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News ,

On May 14, a new law takes effect in Seattle which may change how you offer and charge for parking to residential and commercial tenants.  The law affects multifamily properties in the City of Seattle only.  

The law, which amends the land use code to change mandatory parking requirements in new construction projects, includes changes to the residential rental contracts are written. The law mandates that the privilege for parking on-site must be identified in a 'parking addendum' or in a separate 'parking agreement.'  Any fees charged to tenants for the privilege of parking, must be included in the 'parking addendum' or separate 'parking agreement' and cannot be bundled into the base rental amount.  This is true even if the community you manage does not charge for the privilege of having an on-site parking space. 

Here are some key facts to know about this new law: 

  • If your community includes a parking spot within the base rental agreement, when each tenant's lease comes up for renewal, the privilege of parking must be separated into a 'parking addendum' or separate 'parking agreement.'  If the lease term converts to month-to-month, the existing lease agreement remains valid and enforceable and does not need to be re-negotiated to separate parking from the base rent.
  • An exception exists for multifamily properties with rent and income restrictions.  The City is determining whether buildings with MFTE or other partial affordability covenants are exempted from the law.
  • There is no minimum, and no maximum that can be charged for rental of a parking space.  To increase revenue, parking fees should be commensurate with the market and similarly situated properties.
  • Any mixed use building with commercial space greater than 4000 sq ft must identify parking separately for commercial tenants.  Any existing commercial lease that includes parking privileges for commercial customers, must be amended, and the cost of parking separated, with the acceptance of a new lease agreement. 
  • Owners have the option of commercially selling parking spots to non-tenants in certain geographic regions of the City.  This is a complicated land use issue for which WMFHA recommends consulting a land use expert.  
  • Going forward, in any new construction or renovated property, the law requires a one-to-one bicycle parking ratio.  This means that for every apartment home in the community, there must be one bicycle parking spot.
  • Failure to pay parking fees, is subject to a 10-day comply or vacate. 
  • If parking concessions are provided to new residents as an incentive to lease, at renewal, the expiration of these concessions must be factored into any rent increase and the appropriate notice of rent increase time period must be used.  If the expiration of parking concessions would increase the total rental amount by more than 10% per month, any notice of rent increase must be provided with at least 60 days' notice.     

The move is intended to provide options to tenants and lower housing costs.  These land use code changes are also meant to increase the supply of affordable housing.  

If you have additional questions about this or other recent rental regulations in the State of Washington or other local jurisdictions, please contact Brett Waller at brett@wmfha.org.