Before using this information, please read:
To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
1) State law requires landlords to make repairs to your unit.
State law outlines landlords’ obligations to keep your unit safe and livable. Landlords must maintain their units to comply with all local codes that govern housing quality and provide adequate heat, hot water and locks. They must also maintain all structural components and appliances furnished by them and more. Read the full text of RCW 59.18.060 for a complete list of landlord duties. Also, some local cities and counties have additional requirements for landlords.
Landlords are obligated under state law to manage infestations in rental units, with an exception: in single family residences and in cases where the infestation is caused by the tenant. Infestations are considered repair issues and tenants should follow the Steps to Request a Repair. If possible, document the infestation with photographs of signs of the infestation.
Mold growth is common in the Pacific Northwest and extremely troubling. Many tenants report respiratory problems resulting from mold and mold allergies. These are very real concerns, and unfortunately the law falls far short of adequately addressing renters’ concerns with mold growth in their homes. Mold is only addressed in state law as a requirement for landlords to provide written information to tenants about mold and its health impacts (RCW 59.18.060).
TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.
A statewide “slumlord accountability” law passed in 2005 guarantees relocation assistance for renters whose properties are shut down by local officials due to the landlord’s negligence. The relocation assistance is $2,000 or 3 times the rent, whichever is greater. Cities and counties also have the option of paying the assistance to families upfront to help prevent homelessness and relieve the burden on local service agencies, and then collect the cost from the property owner. Tenant relocation assistance is not triggered by natural disasters or “acts of God.” While relocation assistance is provided for by the law, it is important to note that actually collecting from the landlord can be extremely difficult. Speak to an attorney for more information on how best to proceed.
If you are the resident of a motel, hotel or other transient lodging for more than 30 days, for the purposes of this statue you are considered a tenant and are eligible to seek relocation assistance.
1) Put your repair request in writing & document repairs.
The Landlord-Tenant Act says that the timeline for a landlord to begin repairs doesn’t start until they receive a written request from tenants. It’s a good idea to document that the repair request has been sent and received by sending the letter both certified and regular first class mail, and keeping a copy for your own records. A tenant can also personally deliver the letter, but it is a good idea to have a witness present to confirm it was delivered, or have the landlord sign and date a copy that you keep. Always keep a copy of the letter. Documenting that the landlord received the letter is very important because other legal remedies only become available after the landlord has received the letter. It’s also a very good idea to document the severity of the repair problems by taking photographs with a copy of the day’s newspaper in each frame to prove the date.