I am fed up with my landlord and want to move. I’ve had heating and ventilation problems, roofing issues, and now an infestation of mice. I am very unhappy about this and have voiced my frustration to my landlord on many occasions. She always turns a deaf ear. When can tenants break a lease?
The Landlord-Tenant Act spells out the rights and duties of both landlords and tenants in Washington state. In your case, you describe several problems that are covered under the landlord’s duties. Under the act, the landlord must:
Not violate state and local laws.
Fix any structural parts of the living space, including the walls, floors and roof.
Try to get rid of any pest problems, except when the tenant causes the problem.
Fix electrical, plumbing and heating systems.
As the tenant, you must follow certain steps in order to allow the landlord to fix the problems. The first thing you should do is write a letter to your landlord to explain what needs to be fixed.
In case you need to prove that your landlord got the letter, deliver the letter personally or send it as certified mail with a return receipt requested at the post office. Also make a copy of the letter for yourself.
Probably the most difficult thing you need to do is wait for your landlord to fix the problem. The length of time you must wait is determined by the type of problem you have.
If you have a problem which is life-threatening, no hot or cold water, heat or electricity, your landlord has 24 hours to begin to fix the problem. (RCW 59.18.070 (1)).
If a major appliance or plumbing fixture is not working, your landlord has 72 hours to begin to fix the problem. (RCW 59.18.070 (2)).
For anything else, your landlord has 10 days to fix the problem. (RCW 59.18.070 (3)).
If the landlord does not make the repairs in the given amount of time, you have three options:
Move out after notifying your landlord in writing.
Go to court or arbitration.
Hire someone to make the repairs, provided you are paid up on your rent and utilities and the cost of the repair is less than one month’s rent.
There are many other rules and procedures that need to be followed. Failure to follow them properly could make you liable for damages. It would be wise to contact an attorney to discuss other requirements before taking any action.
John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only. Have a question? Ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org .