Off-Campus Living Guide Provides students with information about how to rent off campus, deal with landlords, find roommates, and become more aware of Bellingham laws.
Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington State A simplified version of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act
LAW Advocates Provides free legal help - including advice, representation and other assistance - for low-income individuals and families facing urgent non-criminal legal problems.
Campus-Community Coalition Works to promote collaboration among area colleges to improve health, safety, and quality of the community.
Roommate Agreement Use this to make sure you and your roommates are on the same page financially and socially.
Landlord Repair Letter Use this form to request a repair from your landlord in writing.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What are some red flags to look for when getting ready to rent?
-Are there serious building code violations in the house?
-Was the landlord difficult to contact?
-Did the landlord give tenants 24 hour notice before showing the house?
2. What's legal in a lease?
The landlord cannot put a term in an agreement that:
-Waives any rights given to tenants by the Landlord-Tenant Act
-Makes you give up your rights to defend yourself in court
-Limits the landlord's accountability
-Says the landlord does not have to make repairs
-Allows the landlord to enter the rental unit without giving you proper notice
-Requires you to pay for damages you do not commit
-Says you have to pay the landlord's lawyers' fees if an argument goes to court, even if you win.
-Allows the landlord to take your things if you get behind in rent.
3. What are the deposits and fees that I can be charged?
-Security Deposit:charged by the landlord that is used to cover any unpaid rent or damages (see more info in Q4)
-Screening Fee: landlord uses to order a background check on you
-Application/Holding Fee: a fee that the landlord charges to hold the place for you until you sign the lease (If you don't rent the place, the landlord can keep your deposit! If you do rent the place, then the fee must be applied to your security deposit or first month's rent)
-Damage Deposit:landlord collects to cover damage that might occur to the property
-Cleaning Fee: the landlord collects this to pay for cleaning after the tenant has left
-Last Month's Rent: can only be used for the agreed upon last month's rent, so if you move out early it must be refunded
4. How can I get my security deposit back?
Before moving in, get a written rental agreement, condition check-in list, and a receipt for your deposit from the landlord, landlord's agent, or the manager.
Before moving out, give proper written notice and your forwarding address to the landlord or manager.
After cleaning, take pictures or video. Have a witness inspect your residence and take notes.
Move out. Wait fourteen days for a deposit refund and/or an itemized statement of any amount the landlord will not give back. If your landlord doesn't respond within 14 days, there is legal action you can take (check the infographic below for more info)
5. What are my repsonsibilites as a tenant?
-Pay your rent and utilities as agreed
-Restore the place to the same condition as when you moved in, except for wear-and-tear
-Keep unit clean and dispose of garbage
-Properly use plumbing, electrical, and heating systems
-Follow city,county, and state regulations
6. How long should my landlord take to make repairs on my rental after I provide them with a written request?
-24 HOURS: when the condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, electricity, or is hazardous to life
-72 HOURS: when the condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord
-10 DAYS: in any other case
If your landlord doesn't begin repairs in the required amount of time, you can take legal action (reference the 3rd infographic below).
DEALING WITH POLICE
1. What are my rights when dealing with a police officer?
-Right to remain silent (If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud)
-Refuse to consent to a search of yourself, you car, or your home
-If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave
-Right to a lawyer if you are arrested (Ask for one immediately)
-Constitutional Rights (regardless of immigration or citizenship status)
2. What are my responsibilities when dealing with a police officer?
-Stay calm and be polite
-Don't interfere with or obstruct the police
-Do not lie or give false documents
-Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested
-Remember the details of an encounter
3. What do I do if I am stopped for questioning?
-Stay calm: Don't run or argue. Don't resist or obstruct police, even if you are innocent. Keep your hands where the police can see them.
-Ask if you are free to leave: If yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under the rest, you have a right to know why,
-You have the right to remain silent: You cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. Tell the officer you are excerising your right outloud.
-You do not have to consent to a search: of yourself or your belongings.
4. What do I do if I am stopped in my car?
-Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible
-Show the police your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance
-You can refuse to consent to a search of your car (If police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, they can search it without your consent)
-Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent
5. What do I do if I am questioned about my immigration status?
-You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status
-If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you
-Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents
New to renting and need some basic info?
Need a repair? Want to know your next steps?
Want to know how to get your security deposit back?