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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.
Roommates & Neighbors
Tenants may find themselves either sharing a living space with their landlord or living in the same building or unit as the property owner, manager or other agent of the landlord. Use caution when entering into a living situation where you will share living space with your landlord. These situations can quickly become very complicated. In order to make such a living arrangement work, you may want to review privacy laws and have clear rules spelled out in the rental agreement regarding the landlord’s expectations in terms of sharing common areas and other rules. Landlords living in buildings or units with their tenants have all the same duties under RCW 59.18.060 in the Landlord-Tenant Act. In shared living space, landlords do not have the right to restrict tenants’ access to the living space or common areas. Neither can they create arbitrary rule changes based on tenants’ behavior. When a tenant shares living space with their landlord, the rules of tenancy must be stated at the beginning of tenancy, either in the written rental agreement or a verbal rental agreement, just like any other landlord-tenant relationship. Landlords can change the rules if you are a month-to-month tenant, but the rule changes must be in writing with 30 days’ notice, and the rule must be reasonable. For more information on rule changes, see Rental Agreements.
Navigating issues that arise between roommates sharing housing can be extremely complicated, and unfortunately there is nothing in the Landlord-Tenant Act that addresses the issue. Sometimes roommates enter into a rental agreement without knowing each other well, and new tenants may come and go without being properly placed on or removed from the contract, which can be problematic in some rental situations.
Roommates or housemates on the same rental agreement are jointly responsible for following all conditions of the rental agreement, including payment of rent. Any action the landlord takes to terminate or enforce the rules of tenancy will apply to all tenants on the rental agreement, not just individual tenants. If one tenant is violating the rules of the rental agreement, the other tenants may decide to communicate with the landlord regarding a roommate’s rule violations or any disputes. It is up to the landlord to enforce the rules of tenancy with all renters in the unit, including payment of rent.
It’s useful to think of your attempt to resolve issues with your neighbor as a trial-and-error process that will involve some negotiation and, likely, some compromise. It is a good idea to take the easiest, least complicated steps first and then escalate your strategy as the situation calls for it. It is up to each individual to assess the risk of the situation for themselves. Some tenants are able to address the concerns they have with their neighbor directly and resolve the situation while others may be reluctant to approach their neighbor because of safety concerns.
Here are some ideas that you can try in an attempt to get the problem resolved. Not every option may be available to you for various reasons, but some ideas may be helpful in reaching resolution with your neighbor. We’ll use a noise problem as an example, but these same strategies may be useful in resolving a variety of different problems with your neighbors.
Here are some ideas you can try when working to solve a noise problem with your neighbor:
The Landlord-Tenant Act in Washington State does not specifically spell out steps for tenants to take to address concerns that arise between neighbors. Some of the most common issues between neighbors are noise complaints, smoking, safety concerns and false reports to management. It is up to individual tenants to choose the steps they will take to resolve problems that arise with neighbors. You may decide to talk with the tenants themselves to resolve the problem you may decide to negotiate with the landlord and ask them to intervene with the neighbors.
Often there are clauses in rental agreements designating quiet hours, parking spaces, and smoking policies. It is up to the landlord to enforce the terms of the rental agreement with other tenants in the building or complex. You can document incidences of noise violation or safety concerns in writing to the landlord and ask them to take action to enforce the terms of the rental agreement with those tenants. You can talk directly to your neighbor or ask them to participate in mediation. You may choose to file a complaint against a neighbor for noise issues or other tenancy violations. You can refer to state statutes, local codes and common law (common law is rules of law that come from the decisions judges make in certain court cases). It is important to proceed with caution in cases like this so as to not to create further problems. If you are too aggressive, another tenant may feel that you are harassing them and take legal action to protect themselves. Contacting the police is another option tenant have if you are immediately concerned for your safety or the safety of someone else. It is up to each individual tenant to decide how best to address the problem. See Negotiation Process for examples of options you can use to try and resolve problems with your neighbors.