The call to crack down on predatory renting of RVs: 'This is not Seattle, this is third world squalor'

SEATTLE - Rats, piles of garbage and human waste -- those are some of the conditions that have the city of Seattle considering a new crackdown.

The city says some are renting out dangerous and damaged RVs to the homeless.

Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to fine the people behind the predatory renting, a practice known as RV ranching.

Hundreds of people living on the streets rely on the vehicles for shelter.

On Friday, the issue was discussed by Seattle city council members during a committee meeting.

On the same day, Q13 News met Nick Yackley, who is living in an RV in Ballard. He says he's been homeless for the past 3 years since moving to Seattle from Illinois.

“It’s hard to go to interviews and stuff when you can’t shower,” Yackley said.

Yackley says he is not renting the RV, instead he is borrowing it from a friend because the one he owned is gone.

“It burned to the ground,” Yackley said.

Some of those burned up and crumbling RVs are sitting in Lincoln Towing’s lot. The lot is where you see the wretched way of how many are living.

Labertew sees the underground business that has emerged amid all the squalor. He says some of the RVs will sell at auction for just a $1.

“Buy it for a dollar, tow it, park it somewhere, rent it out, it gets the 72-hour sticker,” Labertew said.

The RVs will eventually get impounded and end up back at Lincoln Towing to be auctioned off again.

“This is not Seattle, this is third world squalor,” Labertew said.

Labertew says he no longer allows for $1 sales and he supports the mayor’s proposal to destroy unsafe RVs so they do not get back on the streets. On his lot, there were multiple RVs tagged as ‘JVA’ by the city that will eventually be destroyed.

“The city has identified those as junk vehicle affidavit,” Labertew said.

Labertew says besides bed bugs, one of his employees had to get a series of shots after stepping on a needle. It’s not an occupational hazard his employees thought they would have to deal with.

Another health concern is the RVs' black water tanks that collect human waste. Even before the vehicles are towed to his lot, the tank will break, often seeping human waste into neighborhoods.

It`s something Ballard business owner Travis Spikes has to deal with.

“There is trash, a lot of the times human feces,” Spike said.

Spikes says some of the RVs have sat in his neighborhood for months even years.

“From my perspective, I would say half of the RVs that we see they are drug users or selling drugs and criminals and the other half is just people trying to get by,” Spike said.

He is pleading that city leaders crack down on the ones breaking the law and help the ones who are struggling to get by.

Across the street, Yackley says he understands why business owners and homeowners are upset with the unsafe RVs.

He says his RV is not one of those and he keeps it as clean as possible.

He also admits that some are choosing to live that way but he is not. He wants to get out of homelessness but it is hard.

“What are we to do, I would like somebody to tell me that,” Yackley said.

The mayor's proposal follows a pilot program that removed 161 tons of garbage and debris last year. The city says they also removed 173 unsafe RVs, but half of those ended up back in the marketplace. The Seattle City Council will have to pass the mayor's proposal in order for her plan to work.