In our college years, we students will most likely spend a few years renting out a place to live. During that time you’re probably going to have things in your house fixed or issues with your landlord. With that in mind we at the Review would like you to be clear on what your rights are, here in Washington state.
At the top of the list of important notices is that a landlord can’t write something illegal into a lease. Let’s say your landlord, Harry McLandowner, puts a stipulation into your contract that says you are responsible for repairs to the washing machine that he provided breaks, due to normal wear and tear. This is a big no-no, even if it’s in the lease and you signed the contract. This is against Washington’s landlord-tenant laws. So no matter what your contract says, always make sure the contract’s stipulations are legal when being asked to front a bill.
The next big tip to any renter is to always submit complaints in a letter (adding a phone call for a two-pronged attack is a good idea) and to keep a dated copy. It’s a pain and all but when that one huge hassle comes along this will save you some serious grief. This basically gives you evidence that a complaint was made. If you call your landlord and say “my heater is broken I need it fixed,” and a month goes by and it’s not fixed the landlord can easily deny that any notice was ever given to them.
Before we jump into how long landlords have to fix certain problems lets take a look at the basic obligations of all landlords.
All of the below information is provided on the Attorney General of Washington
Consumer Protection Division’s website.
• Maintain the dwelling so it does not violate state and local codes in ways that endanger the tenant’s health and safety.
• Maintain structural components, such as roofs, floors and chimneys, in reasonably good repair.
• Maintain the dwelling in reasonably weather-tight condition.
• Provide reasonably adequate locks and keys.
• Provide the necessary facilities to supply heat, electricity and hot and cold water.
• Provide garbage cans and arrange for removal of garbage, except in single family dwellings.
• Keep common areas, such as lobbies, stairways and halls, reasonably clean and free from hazards.
• Control pests before the tenant moves in. The landlord must continue to control infestations except in single family dwellings, or when the infestation was caused by the tenant.
• Make repairs to keep the unit in the same condition as when the tenant moved in (except for normal wear and tear).
• Keep electrical, plumbing and heating systems in good repair, and maintain any appliances which are provided with the rental.
• Inform the tenant of the name and address of the landlord or landlord’s agent.
• Set water heaters at 120° when a new tenant moves in.
• Provide smoke detectors, and ensure they work properly when a new tenant moves in. (Tenants are responsible for maintaining detectors.)
•Provide written notice of whether the building has a fire sprinkler system, an alarm system, a smoking policy (and what that policy is), an emergency notification and/or relocation plan (and what that plan is), and an emergency evacuation plan (and what that plan is). See RCW 59.18.060.
• Investigate whether a tenant is engaging in gang-related activity when another tenant notifies the landlord of gang-related activity by serving a written notice and investigation demand to the landlord. See RCW 58.18.180(4).
• Replace a lock or configure an existing one for a new key, at a tenant’s expense, when a tenant requests for this to be done after obtaining a court order that grants the tenant possession of a rental unit and excludes a former co-tenant. See RCW 59.18.585
How long landlords have to start repairs
The notice must include the address and apartment number of the rental, the name of the owner, if known, and a description of the problem.
It’s a good idea to deliver the notice personally, or to use certified mail and get a return receipt from the post office.
After giving notice, the tenant must wait the required time for the landlord to begin making repairs. Those required waiting times are:
• 24 hours for no hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or for a condition which is imminently hazardous to life.
• 72 hours for repair of refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by landlord.
• 10 days for all other repairs.