• Cliff Coulter

WA Landlord | 101

Updated: Jun 10

Rent

Washington State has a new definition of rent that encompasses monthly reoccurring charges. 14 day notices can be prepared for non-payment of monthly reoccurring charges. For example, non-payment of the monthly recurring charge of utilities.

Late Fees

Late fees start at least 5 days after the due date. If it is a daily late fee you can charge late fees for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.

Duty to repair basic necessities

If you have no hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or there is a life-threatening problem, the landlord has 24 hours to start repairs. RCW 59.18.070 (1). For example, it is mid-December in Bellingham, Washington, and the temperature is below freezing. The tenant's furnace quits working and they immediately notify the landlord. How long does the landlord have to begin repairs? Generally, a landlord has 24 hours to begin restoring heat, water, or electricity, or to repair a hazardous condition.

Security deposit

21 days to return a tenant's security deposit after termination/expiration of lease.


Repair and deduct

If the landlord breaches his duty to repair, a tenant can have the repairs performed by a competent third party, after giving the landlord a cost estimate. Then the tenant can deduct the cost of repairs from the rent (subject to a statutory maximum amount).

The rent deduction for repairs cannot exceed one month's rent.


Quiet Enjoyment

Under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, the landlord promises that the tenant will enjoy peaceful, undisturbed possession of the Premises. Material disturbance of the tenant's quiet enjoyment may result in constructive eviction. This includes any disturbances of the tenant's right to full possession.


Self help

A landlord is subject to actual damages if they unlawfully terminate the utilities of a tenant plus up to $100 per day the tenant is without utilities. In order to lawfully evict a tenant who has failed to pay rent, a landlord can file an unlawful detainer action. A tenant who has failed to pay rent when due must be given proper notice of default and an opportunity to cure. If the tenant fails to pay, the landlord may file an unlawful detainer action.


Lease surrender

Surrender of a lease may happen by mutual agreement.


Retaliatory eviction

Unlawful detainer is filed after a lawful complaint is filed. For example, if the landlord raises the rent within 90 days after a tenant's complaint, this creates a presumption of retaliatory eviction. This presumption of retaliation may be rebutted with evidence from the landlord showing that the action wasn't retaliatory.


Ground Lease

A long-term lease for vacant land is a ground lease. This type of lease is typically used in large metropolitan areas. The lease term is usually long enough to make construction on the land desirable and profitable.


Triple Net Lease

A lease in which the tenant pays property taxes, insurance premiums, maintenance expenses, and all other operating costs, is a: triple net lease. In a net lease arrangement, the landlord "nets" more of the rental income by shifting costs to the tenant.


MHLTA

Tenants who rent lots for their mobile homes are protected by Washington's:

Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act. The provisions of the MHLTA address the unique circumstances that mobile home owners face. For example, a landlord can't offer a mobile home lot for a term shorter than one year.


Novation

In a novation, the old contract is extinguished and a new contract is formed.


Graduated Lease

A lease agreement that sets specific dates for rent increases based on the cost-of-living index is a/an: graduated lease. Graduated leases resemble gross leases, but include periodic rent increases.


Implied Warranty of Habitability

The implied warranty of habitability is imposed by the common law. Many of the landlord's repair and maintenance duties mandated by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act also fall under the implied warranty of habitability. This common law warranty requires that landlords keep the premises fit for human habitation.


Gross Lease

A lease agreement in which the tenant pays a set amount, and the landlord pays all additional expenses, is a: gross lease. Tenants under a gross lease usually pay only for utilities, such as electricity and water.


Liability for additional damages

If the cost to repair tenant damage exceeds the security deposit, a landlord can: sue for the remaining amount. The tenant is not protected from liability for additional damages merely because she paid a security deposit.


Assignment

A tenant has the right to assign her interest in leased property UNLESS the lease specifically prohibits assignment. Some leases limit or forbid this type of transfer.


Abandonment

A tenant abandons his lease before expiration of the lease term. The tenant is liable for the remaining rent and the landlord's costs for finding a new tenant, but the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages by renting the property to a new tenant as soon as possible.


Abandonment: Landlord can store and eventually sell the tenant’s personal property to compensate for damage. Landlord must follow specific instructions found in RCW §§ 59.18.310(b).

Sale of leased property

When a landlord sells leased property the new owner takes title subject to the lease. The landlord is free to sell the leased property, but the buyer takes it subject to any existing leases. All leases remain in effect until the end of their terms.


Security Deposit Collection

Under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, a landlord CANNOT collect a security deposit UNLESS: the rental agreement is in writing and a written checklist describing the unit's condition is given to the tenant. The checklist must be signed and dated by the landlord and the tenant.


Sublease v. Assignment

A key difference between a sublease and an assignment is that: a sublease does not last until the end of the lease term. Because a sublease does not transfer full possession of the premises to the subtenant for the remainder of the lease term; the original tenant either shares possession or subleases for a portion of the remaining lease term. In either instance, the original tenant remains primarily liable for rental payments. In an assignment, the original tenant transfers her entire remaining leasehold interest but remains secondarily liable for the rent.


Student Housing

Washington's Residential Landlord-Tenant Act protects a resident in a student apartment. RLTA exemptions are specific and limited. The act applies to almost any form of rental housing. However, it does not apply when the housing is merely incidental to the provision of medical, religious, educational, recreational, or similar services.


Normal wear and tear

A landlord CANNOT charge a tenant for normal wear and tear resulting from occupancy.


Move in ready

If the landlord refuses to make the leased property available to the tenant on the agreed date, the tenant may: rescind the lease, wait for the property to come available, and sue the landlord for damages. Damages (for example, storage fees) compensate a party for foreseeable financial losses resulting from the breach of a contract.


Entering an occupied rental unit

The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act allows a landlord to enter an occupied rental unit to inspect the unit, make non-emergency repairs, or provide other services. Under these circumstances, the landlord must provide 2 days notice to the tenant before entering the premises. The act requires landlords to give tenants two days' notice in non-emergency situations. However, landlords need to give only one day's notice to show a unit to a prospective tenant.


Waiting List fee

The landlord cannot charge a prospective tenant a fee to be placed on a waiting list.

Security Deposits

Must be kept in trust accounts. The trust accounts do not need to be interest bearing. Can be used for damages and cleaning, but cannot be used for damage by normal wear and tear.

Showing unit to a prospective tenant

Requires one day's notice under Washington law.

Landlord refuses to make necessary repairs.

If a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs, the tenant may give notice of her intent to vacate and then move out. The tenant may in the alternative take a number of steps, including having repairs done by a competent third party or doing the repairs herself and then deducting the costs of the rent.

Rental Rates

Should not be much higher or lower than comparable properties to remain competitive.


Tenants avoiding service

First diligent efforts at personal service, then a motion to allow posting and mailing. Recently a new section was added to the eviction statutes that cover commercial evictions and post-foreclosure evictions to make the same procedure available. Similar to residential cases, there is no money judgment with this type of service.

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