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Seattle council committee taking on ‘RV ranching’

RVs parked along the street in Seattle. (AP)

Seattle could begin to start cracking down on the rental of derelict RVs parked on city streets.

The Seattle City Council took up “RV Ranching” in its Friday morning meeting. The term is used to describe the process of renting out badly damaged RVs at a low cost. In many cases, payment is made in the form of prostitution or drugs sales.

It might mean the RV’s owner doesn’t have the keys to the vehicle, thus making it nearly impossible to move it without a towing service.

Read the legislation

New legislation would “prohibit renting extensively damaged vehicles and impose penalties on individuals that do so,” according to the council committee.

So what is “extensively damaged?” RVs considered damaged must have two of the following five issues:

A. Has a broken window or windshield and/or missing wheels or tires;
B. Is apparently inoperable;
C. Has inadequate sanitation to the extent that occupants or the general public are directly exposed to the risk of illness or injury;
D. Creates a health, fire, or safety hazard;
E. Has inadequate protection to the extent that occupants are exposed to the weather.

“These are inhuman condition run by slumlords on wheels,” said Calvin Goings, Director of Finance and Services for the city of Seattle. “These conditions are not fit for a dog. If there were animals living like this, we would seize those animals.”

The first violation would be a civil infraction and carries a penalty of $250 per day. A second violation is considered a misdemeanor.

In 2018, 173 RVs were towed, according to a memorandum attached to Friday’s committee agenda. Of those, 60 RVs reappeared on city streets in use as a residence. Many of the vehicles are obtained at auction for low cost ($25).

The Finance and Neighborhoods Committee has determined that two to five individuals are responsible for much of the RV ranching in the city, according to the memorandum.

RVs are auctioned off at such low prices because they’re often too damaged to recycle or scrap, and would cost the city about $2,000 each in disposal fees.

The latest Point in Time Count determined that 816 homeless people in King county are living in RVs.

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