Boarding Houses in Seattle – New Director’s Rule Coming Soon

DPD has seen a rise in permit applications for buildings that contain boarding houses, a relatively new project type. These boarding houses generally consist of a group of small bedrooms with attached private bathrooms, each equipped with sink and refrigerator, all arranged around a common corridor or stair, and a common kitchen. They commonly appear in densely populated parts of the city, such as the University District and Capitol Hill. While similar to dwelling units, boarding houses are also similar to apartments. The occupants of a boarding house tend to be unrelated, function independently, and have less interest in shared areas. Though the Seattle Building Code regulates them as boarding houses, the Land Use Code may regulate them as dwelling units or congregate residences based on the criteria in that code.

Since boarding houses do not fall within the scope of the Seattle Residential Code, they must be designed in accordance with the Seattle Building Code. However, DPD has published Director’s Rule 6-2012 (which is currently being adopted) to address some code requirements permitted to be used in lieu of some Seattle Building Code requirements. This Director’s Rule only applies to boarding houses that meet the following conditions:

  • No more than 2,000 square feet per boarding house
  • No more than eight bedrooms per boarding house

When considering the Seattle Building Code, boarding houses are not dwelling units, therefore several exceptions commonly used for dwelling units do not apply to these buildings. It is important for designers to keep this in mind, as requirements for means of egress, fire protection and accessibility may be greatly impacted. A pre-submittal conference is highly recommended for these types of projects.

If you have any questions about this rule, please contact:

Tanya Elder
(206) 615-1639
tanya.elder@seattle.gov