(Other) Vessel Containing Dwelling Unit

Definition – Per SMC 23.60A.214.D (strictly, NOT an SMC definition)

This section is a bit complicated so we will break it down as best we can. For the purpose of this website, we are discussing the section of the Seattle Municipal Code that is defined in section 23.60A.214.D “Other Vessels Containing Dwelling Units.” The purpose is to describe a floating residence that is NOT a “Recreational Vessel” but meets other criteria specified in that section of the code. This is important to understand as they are regulated differently than Floating On Water Residences, House Barges, and Recreational Vessels for the purpose of residential use.

NOTE: There is not a definition in the SMC for a “Vessel Containing Dwelling Unit,” however, there are definitions for “Vessel” and for “Dwelling Unit” and these are shown below;

Vessel” means ships, boats, barges, or any other floating craft that are designed and used for navigation and do not interfere with the normal public use of the water, including historic ships that do not have means of self-propulsion and steering equipment and house barges.

Dwelling unit” means a room or rooms, located within a structure or vessel, designed, arranged, occupied, or intended to be occupied as living accommodations independent from any other household. The existence of a food preparation area within the room or rooms shall be evidence of the existence of a dwelling unit.

These particular types of floating residences are unique because of their regulations.

What is a ‘(Other) Vessel Containing Dwelling Unit’?

A vessel containing a dwelling unit that does not meet the standards for Recreational Vessels is allowed if it:

a. Complies with the definition of vessel in Section 23.60A.942; and (See “Vessel” definition above)

b. Was lawfully moored in the City and used as a dwelling unit prior to the effective date of this ordinance (June 15th, 2015).


FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What is a Vessel with Dwelling Unit?

A: Short Answer: Vessel with Dwelling Units are houseboat style vessels that can be certified as navigable, and which came into Seattle waters AFTER June 30, 2014 but BEFORE June 15th, 2015.

Q: Do I need a plaque for my Vessel with Dwelling Unit?

A: Yes, to qualify as a Vessel with Dwelling Unit in Seattle waters, you must apply for and obtain a verification for your Vessel with Dwelling Unit. Once verified, you will receive a city issued plaque which must be displayed on the water side if you are behind a locked gate, or on the dock side if you are in a slip that is not behind a locked gate.

Q: How do I get a Plaque for my Vessel with Dwelling Unit?

A: The regulations state that you must apply for your verification within 6 months of implementation of the Shoreline Master Plan (June 15th, 2015), however, this does not eliminate your ability to apply for and receive your plaque. To make application, you can use the forms provide at the bottom of this page. The application fee is $345.00 and must accompany the application.

Q: Can I expand my Vessel with Dwelling Unit?

A: No expansion is allowed, either above or below the waterline, with the exception of adding railing up to 36″ high.

Q: Can I replace my Vessel with Dwelling Unit?

A: Replacement is not allowed, however, you may rebuild your Vessel with Dwelling Unit under certain circumstances. You may rebuild (to original dimensions or smaller) if destroyed by fire, act of nature, or other causes beyond the control of the owner, excluding normal deterioration. You must commence the rebuilding process within 12 months of the destruction event. Additionally, the vessel must remain navigable.

Vessel with Dwelling Unit Documents