Are you renting and the wind damaged your home? Know your rights!

Do you rent your home and was it damaged in last night’s windstorm? If so, it is important that you know your rights to have your home repaired.

Under Washington law, your landlord must keep your home weather tight, structurally sound, and generally fit to live in, including maintenance of plumbing, electrical, heating, and appliances. The landlord is responsible for repairing all damage to the home, unless it is caused by the tenant or a tenant’s guest. Generally the home must be kept in a condition equal to or better than it was at the beginning of the tenancy. If your rental home is damaged or poorly maintained, here is what you can do:

  • You MUST notify the landlord and/or manager IN WRITING of all damage to your home. (A phone call is not enough! Keep a copy of the letter or email and when it was sent/delivered. If possible, have someone not in the household witness this.)
  • Do not stop paying rent! (If you withhold rent, you will get evicted from your home, instead of getting it repaired.)
  • After receiving your notice, the landlord must begin taking steps to make repairs as soon as possible:
    o Within 24 hours for heat, hot and cold water, electricity, or hazardous conditions
    o Within 72 hours for refrigerator, range and oven, or plumbing
    o Within 10 days for all other conditions
  • If the landlord does not make repairs in a timely manner you can:
    o Move out after giving written notice (Give written notice to your landlord and move out immediately thereafter. You are entitled to a refund of prepaid rent and should get your deposit back, in accordance with the rules governing deposits.)
    o File a lawsuit using the Residential Landlord Tenant Act or common law doctrine of Warranty of Habitability. (arbitration and mediation are also options)
    o Make repairs yourself or hire someone else to, and then deduct the cost of repairs from your rent. If you choose this option, you must CAREFULLY AND CORRECTLY follow the law. (A link with more information is available below.)
    o Rent Escrow (We do not recommend doing this without the help of an attorney.)
  • (The landlord is generally not responsible for damage to personal property – things like your TV, bike, car, cloths, etc.)
  • The landlord cannot enter your home without your permission and must give you 48 hours advanced notice in writing, except in the case of an emergency or if you landlord has a court order. But, be reasonable, there can be penalties if the landlord or the tenant abuse rules governing right of entry.

More information about repairs and other tenant rights can be found at www.washingtonlawhelp.org, under Housing, Tenant’s Rights http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/resource/tenants-what-to-do-if-your-rental-needs-repai?ref=SkU9m.  The website, maintained by our colleagues at the Northwest Justice Project, also has other “Disaster Recovery & Relief” information for consumers and homeowners.

If you are low-income, you can also call 1-888-201-1014 between 9:15 am and 12:15 am. (Warning, it can be hard to get through but keep trying.) If you’re over 60, you can call 1-888-387-7111.

This information is not intended as legal advice, but merely to share basic information about Washington law.  If you have specific legal questions, please contact an attorney.

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