Know Your Rights

During Your Tenancy FAQ

Do rental units in Wash­ing­ton State have to be sub-metered (have one meter per indi­vid­ual rental unit)?

No. There is no requirement for landlords to sub-meter individual units. Seattle tenants are protected under the Third Party Billing Ordinance that requires landlords to provide information on how they calculate tenants’ bills.

What is third par­ty billing?

Third party billing is when the landlord has a utility service in their name and passes the charge on to the tenants in a unit or complex. It only applies to properties with three or more units. The landlord is billed for utility usage based on the entire building’s charges or master meter, and then divides the bill up and sends it to individual units. Tenants are charged based on the divided total bill, rather than their individual utility usage. Third party billing is legal in Washington State, and unregulated outside the city limits of Seattle. Seattle renters have additional legal protections under the Third Party Billing Ordinance. See Seattle Utility Billing for more information.

Do I have to put util­i­ties in my name when I move into a unit?

Look to your written rental agreement to find out what has been agreed upon regarding utility billing in your rental unit. Some landlords require tenants to put utilities in the tenant’s name, while other landlords prefer to keep the utilities in their own name and then send separate bills to the tenant. Seattle Public Utility water/sewer/garbage accounts must be kept in the landlord’s name. See Seattle Utility Billing for more information.

Are there any pro­tec­tions in the law to stop them from shut­ting off util­i­ty ser­vice in units with renters who are elder­ly, dis­abled, or par­ents of small children?

There are currently no protections in state law against utility shut offs for renters with disabilities or small children. It’s possible that Individual utility providers provide some such protection. Contact your utility provider directly to find out more information. They may be willing to delay shut offs for tenants who have good payment histories. In addition, low-income tenants have some protections against shutoffs of heat during the winter months. See the Washington Law Help publication Public Utilities for more information.

Does my land­lord have to put in extra insu­la­tion and dou­ble paned win­dows to keep my util­i­ty costs down?

Generally no, but the landlord does have to make sure your unit is habitable by ensuring that it has adequate heat and maintain the property in compliance with local building codes. State law also requires that the unit be reasonably weather-tight under RCW 59.18.060.

Are phone and cable ser­vice con­sid­ered utilities?

No. Other services in a rental unit, such as phone service or cable, are considered amenities and the sole responsibility of the renter to set up and maintain independent of the rental agreement and landlord.

I make pay­ments direct­ly to the util­i­ty com­pa­ny, but my land­lord often uses my util­i­ties. Does the land­lord owe me for the use of my utilities?

Possibly. The Landlord-Tenant Act is silent on this issue, so you should look to the language of your lease if it states the landlord can do so. If the lease doesn’t spell this out, and the landlord is using the utilities for purposes that do not benefit you, then in some situations you may be able to seek compensation. For example, if your lease agreement states that you will maintain the lawn and yard, it may be reasonable for the landlord to turn on the sprinklers to do so. However, if the landlord was renovating a property they owned next door and used your electricity to power their tools; this might not be an appropriate use of your utilities.

If the landlord improperly used your utilities use previous utility bills to document the discrepancy in amounts if possible. You can request a rent credit or payment from the landlord for the difference you are owed. The law does not clearly state your rights in this situation, so you must negotiate with your landlord. Have any agreement signed and in writing. If the landlord refuses to compensate you can go to Small Claims Court, but always consult an attorney before taking action.

If I am late mak­ing a util­i­ty pay­ment, can the land­lord charge me a late fee or serve me with a 10-day notice to com­ply or vacate if the bill is in my name?

Yes. Keeping current on utility bills is a condition of your tenancy. If you do not pay utility bills, the landlord may charge late fees or serve you with a 10-day notice to comply or vacate, even if the utility bill is in your name. Look to your rental agreement to see if the landlord can charge you late fees on utility payments.

My util­i­ty bill is three times as much as my neigh­bor who lives in the same size unit. Is this legal?

It depends on if you are both using the same amount of utilities, which can vary depending on how many people live in the same unit, or even personal habits of an individual tenant’s use of gas, water or electricity, etc. However, assuming there is no substantive difference in usage, this can be an indication of a faulty pipe, wiring, or insulation. It may also be an indication of a faulty meter. For a faulty meter you can call the utility company to come out and inspect the meter. If the company finds no fault with the meter, ask for documentation. Using the Repair Process, you can include this documentation to the landlord and request they correct the defective utility issue. Use previous utility bills to document the discrepancy in amounts if possible.

The pre­vi­ous ten­ant didn’t pay the util­i­ty bill. Am I respon­si­ble for the bill?

No. You are only responsible for the utility use during the term of your tenancy. If you have a lease you can use that as documentation that you are not responsible for the previous tenant’s bill. The lease will state your term of tenancy.

Can the land­lord charge for util­i­ties retroactively?

Look to your rental agreement to see what utilities the landlord requires you to pay and what late fees, if any, you are responsible for. The contract dictates what the landlord is allowed to charge you for utilities.

What is the land­lord required to repair?

Landlords are responsible to make all repairs in the unit except in cases where tenants or invitees of the tenant cause the damage. Tenants may also be liable for repairs that are the result of unreported issues in the apartment if those issues cause further damage in the unit. State law outlines landlords’ obligations to keep your unit safe and livable. Landlords must also maintain their units to comply with all local codes that govern housing quality. Landlords must also provide adequate heat and hot water, provide adequate locks, maintain all structural components in reasonably good repair, and more. Read RCW 59.18.060 for a complete list of landlord duties.

What repairs can my land­lord hold me respon­si­ble for?

RCW 59.18.130 outlines a tenant’s responsibilities under landlord-tenant law. Tenants must keep their units clean and sanitary, dispose of garbage from inside their units, properly use the facilities and appliances supplied by the landlord, maintain smoke detectors batteries and more. Tenants also must not damage the property or allow guests to damage the property. Tenants can be held responsible for damages caused by them or visitors invited to the property. A tenant cannot be legally charged for damages caused by the landlord’s negligence or for damage resulting from normal wear and tear in the unit. See our Deposits webpage for more details.

How much can my land­lord charge to fix items that I dam­age in the unit?

There are no specific legal standards pertaining to the cost of repairing damages. Tenants may have the opportunity to make the repairs themselves, with permission from the landlord, and depending on the type and extent of the damage as well as the terms of the lease. The tenant may also be able to negotiate with the landlord to have the repairs made. Generally speaking, a landlord can charge for the cost of materials, the cost of hiring a contractor, or the fair cost of labor comparable to regional rates if the landlord made the repair themselves.
When you vacate a unit, it is always a best practice to thoroughly document the unit before you move out. Otherwise tenants leave themselves open to be charged exorbitant fees or charged for damages that they were not responsible for. Protect yourself with documentation!

Can I with­hold rent to force the land­lord to make repairs?

No. Tenants must be current in rent in order to access the repair remedies written into the law. Even if the repairs are extremely severe, withholding rent can leave renters vulnerable to eviction.

My land­lord began to make a repair with­in the legal time­frame, but they have still not fixed the prob­lem after a con­sid­er­able amount of time. Can I still break my lease even though they start­ed repairs?

RCW 59.18.090 states the tenant does have the right to break the lease after the appropriate timeframe expires starting from when the landlord received a written repair request and the repair still goes on uncompleted within a reasonable time. However, there are some risks associated with this remedy, and it is a good idea to consult with an attorney before taking any action. Reasonable is not defined in the Landlord-Tenant Act. If possible, document the landlord’s attempt to repair if it is inadequate to fix the problem. Tenants may have a stronger case to break the lease based on the severity of the need for repair. For example, having no hot water or heat may have a different standard of reasonableness than replacing a cabinet.

I can’t live in my unit because a pipe burst caus­ing a flood. Is my land­lord required to put me up in a motel or move me to anoth­er unit?

While state law does not specifically require landlords to move tenants to another unit or pay for motel stays, tenants have the right to ask these things of the landlord and negotiate to get them. Tenants can argue that they don’t have the obligation to pay rent for a unit during a time that they’re not able to live there or get full use of the unit. If the landlord disagrees and still asks for full rent, tenants still need to pay rent, but they can document financial and other damages caused because of the flooding (for instance, having to pay for a motel room, driving costs, or other financial damages). You can negotiate with your landlord for these things or take them to Small Claims Court to sue for compensation after the fact. Remember to always put it in writing! See Steps to Request a Repair for tools you can use to negotiate with your landlord.

My apart­ment flood­ed due to a faulty plumb­ing and all my belong­ings were dam­aged. Is the land­lord respon­si­ble to pay for the cost?

State law does not specifically require this, but tenants have an argument that the landlord can be held liable for property damage. If the tenant has documentation that they had previously communicated with the landlord about the problem and the landlord took no action to fix it, the argument would be stronger. If the tenant has not communicated with the landlord about the problem, then the tenant can argue that the landlord should have known about the problem. Other tenants in the building may have had similar problems and would be willing to testify or provide written statements. Communicating with other tenants is invaluable. This is another reason why it is helpful for tenants to hold on to copies of all of their repair requests. Landlords cannot be held liable for property damage resulting from a repair problem unless they knew or should have known about the problem. It is also a good idea for renters to get renters’ insurance that will cover the cost of any property damages.

I can’t live in my unit because the mold is impact­ing my health. Can I legal­ly break my lease because of this?

Other than a requirement to provide written information (RCW 59.18.060), there are no state laws governing landlords’ responsibilities regarding mold removal. State law does give residential tenants the right to vacate their units and move if the landlord is not making necessary repairs. It will depend on whether the landlord attempts to fix the problem causing the mold to grow. The mold itself may not be cause enough to break the lease, but if the landlord fails to fix the leaky pipe causing the moisture that created the mold growth, then the tenant can follow the repair process to eventually break the lease. Thorough documentation is vital if you’d like to use this legal remedy, and there are some risks associated with this course of action. See Repair Process above and Tenants’ Repair Remedies for details. Disabled tenants may also make reasonable accommodation requests to make the unit livable or to be allowed to vacate. To learn more about protections for disabled tenants and how to make a reasonable accommodation request, see Fair Housing & Disability Laws.

What if I fol­low the repairs pro­ce­dure and the land­lord still isn’t fix­ing my unit?

If you’ve tried all the resources available to you and exhausted your legal remedies, you may consider seeking legal help and assistance. See the Legal Assistance Guide for more information.

Can I ask the land­lord to put in bet­ter car­pet­ing or refur­bish the countertops?

In general, landlord-tenant laws do not cover cosmetic upgrades to units. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to request upgrades to the property. It is important that you not make any changes to the unit, even if you believe they will improve the property, without getting written permission from your landlord to do so. Keep in mind that any changes you make to the unit, even ones you consider improvements, could be considered damages by the landlord when you move out of the unit. If there is a repair problem with the carpeting or countertops to the extent that they are not useable, a tenant can ask the landlord to make the repairs through the Steps to Request a Repair above.

Are there legal stan­dards for how often a land­lord has to replace the car­pet or repaint the walls?

Washington State law does not set out any specific timeframes for landlords to replace carpet or repaint the walls. If there is a repair problem with the carpeting or walls to the extent that there is significant damage, a tenant can ask the landlord to make the repairs through the Steps to Request a Repair above.

My land­lord says that they don’t have to make repairs in my unit because my rent is so cheap. Is this legal?

All tenants deserve to live in safe and decent housing, regardless of how much rent they pay. The legal standards to make repairs are the same for all residential tenants.

I signed a lease stat­ing that I have to make all the repairs in my unit, and that I have to accept the unit as is.” Can my land­lord hold me to this?

RCW 59.18.230 states that tenants cannot sign away their rights under the law. The landlord is still responsible for making all repairs for defective conditions that are not caused by the tenant or guests of the tenant. If the lease provision waives a duty that is defined under the law as the landlord’s responsibility, that section is legally unenforceable. For example, if a tenant moves into a unit with no working heat, even if the lease says the tenant is responsible for repairs, state law still requires the landlord to maintain appropriate heating for the unit.

My toi­let clogs reg­u­lar­ly. We had to call a plumber out, and my land­lord is charg­ing me the cost of the repair, say­ing that I use too much toi­let paper. Is this legal?

In this situation, the landlord is arguing that the tenant is responsible for the damages that require a costly repair. Unless the tenant has damaged the toilet by flushing things that cause clogs, the tenant has an argument that they were using the facility within normal use and that they are not responsible for the cost of the repair. The tenant can provide documentation in the form of prior repair requests or a report from the plumber clarifying the nature of the plumbing problem. If the move-in checklist indicates that the toilet was working fine when you moved in, it may be difficult to prove that the problems with the toilet were not caused by the tenant.

I injured myself because the land­lord didn’t make repairs on my unit. Can I hold my land­lord liable for the costs of my med­ical bills?

You may be able to take your landlord to court to sue for the costs of your medical bills. It is important to have documentation of the repair problems and your landlord’s negligence in fixing them. Seek legal advice from an attorney for a specific situation. Tenants have often found it helpful to consult with an attorney regarding health problems that result from mold.

How do I know if I’m pro­tect­ed under Seat­tle laws?

The King County Parcel Viewer is a research tool that offers detailed information on all properties in King County. The property report lists each address within a specific jurisdiction. It will designate whether or not your rental is in Seattle city limits. Find the property by address, then click on the “Get Districts Report” link. See Locating Your Landlord for more information.

Do Seat­tle land­lords have to have spe­cif­ic rea­sons to end tenancies?

Yes. The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, or JCEO, requires that Seattle landlords have just cause reasons to terminate tenancy or evict month-to-month or other periodic tenants (tenants who pay rent weekly or twice a month). There are 18 total just causes listed in the ordinance. Just causes for eviction include nonpayment of rent, noncompliance with lease terms, chronically late rent payments, and the intention of the landlord to occupy the unit themselves or rent the unit to an immediate family member. The notice required for each just cause reason varies. Outside of city limits, there is no just cause protection for tenants, and landlords can ask tenants not on a term lease to vacate with only 20 days’ written notice.

The landlord cannot use just cause evictions in retaliation for a tenant asserting their rights under landlord-tenant law or calling code enforcement. Seattle tenants experiencing retaliation can contact the DPD at 206-615-0808. This does not include tenants on leases, whose tenancy ends when the lease ends unless otherwise stated in the lease.

What can I do if my land­lord vio­lates the Just Cause Evic­tion Ordinance?

JCEO is enforced by the DPD, or Department of Planning and Development. They can be reached at 206-615-0808. Some Just Cause reasons allow tenants to pursue monetary damages if the landlord doesn’t follow them, up to $2000 in Small Claims Court. See Just Cause Eviction Ordinance (SMC 22.206.160) for more information, and Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws, a publication made by the DPD.

What if I am required to vacate the unit at the end of my lease? Is that con­sid­ered just cause?

The landlord can require in a lease that the tenant vacate a unit at the end of the contract period, even in the City of Seattle. If your lease requires you to vacate at the end of the contract, you must do so unless the landlord agrees in writing to renew your lease or make you a month-to-month tenant. For more information, see Rental Agreements.

Why does Seat­tle have bet­ter pro­tec­tions for ten­ants than oth­er parts of the state? How can we get just cause pro­tec­tion statewide?

Tenants and tenant advocates have worked to win additional protections for Seattle renters. Laws can be very difficult to change, housing advocates are working to win just cause and other protections for the entire state. Landlord lobbying groups are constantly working to expand the number of just cause reasons. Your elected officials need to know how renters are being impacted by rental laws in Washington State. Call the Washington State Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 and tell them your story. You can leave a message for your state Senator, two Representatives and the Governor. Also, you can find email addresses and information about upcoming bills that impact renters at the Washington State Legislature website.

What if my land­lord gives me less than 60 days’ notice of a rent increase of 10% or more in a 12-month period?

If you have been given less than the required amount of notice, you can contest an improper rent increase. See our Sample Letter: Improper Rent Increase or Rule Change . Tenants can also file a complaint with the DPD, which has the authority to rescind an improper rent increase notice. If the landlord does not follow the requirement to provide a 60-day written notice for a rent increase of 10% or more, and instead serves a 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, the tenant can pay the rent increase by writing “payment under protest” on their check. The tenant can then pursue the difference owed from the improper rent increase in Small Claims Court. It would also be a good idea for the tenant to pursue legal help through the Housing Justice Project or Legal Action Center in Seattle. See the “Legal Assistance Guide’:/rights/section/legal-assistance-guide for renters for more information.

Some tenants will choose not to pay the increase at all and just pay their regular amount. The risk here is that the tenant could end up in eviction court for nonpayment of rent after service of the 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, and will have to explain to a judge or court commissioner why they think the rent increase is not appropriate. This can be a risky choice, because whenever a landlord files an eviction lawsuit against a tenant, it creates a permanent record of eviction even if the tenant wins the court case.

What is third par­ty billing? What are my landlord’s respon­si­bil­i­ties under the third par­ty billing ordinance?

Third party billing is when the landlord is billed by the utility company and then passes the cost on to the tenants living in three or more rental units. Landlords must inform tenants of any new billing practices. Each bill must include the name, address and phone number of the landlord or billing company, and must detail each item the tenant is being charged, including service and late fees. It must also include information on beginning and ending meter readings for sub-metered units, the due date and date late fees will be applied and past due balances. Statements must also detail a process for disputing billings, as well as an address for submitting disputes to the landlord or company. The ordinance also limits the amount of service charges, late fees and NSF check fees a landlord can collect per month. Utility bills for the building must be made available to tenants on the property for up to two years.

What can I do if my land­lord is vio­lat­ing the third par­ty billing ordinance?

Tenants who think they are being incorrectly billed must send a notice to the landlord or billing agent (whoever is identified as the responsible entity) within 30 days of the billing in question. The billing agent or landlord must respond to the concern within 30 days. If no resolution can be reached with the landlord or agent, the tenant can file a complaint with the Seattle Office of the Hearing Examiner or opt to take the landlord to Small Claims Court.

Under what cir­cum­stances is my land­lord oblig­at­ed to pay relo­ca­tion assis­tance for me to move?

The Relocation Assistance Ordinance requires landlords to pay relocation money to low-income tenants who are displaced from their units because of housing demolition, substantial rehabilitation, change of use or removal of restrictions placed on subsidized housing. Tenants are entitled to 90 days’ notice before they have to vacate the unit for one of these purposes. The owner must obtain permits in order to perform any of the actions listed above, and must first apply for tenant relocation licenses for residents impacted. Tenants are eligible for relocation assistance if their family income is less than 50% of area median income. The amount for relocation assistance changes from time to time, but can be up to $3,000. The landlord pays half and the city pays half.

30 days after the landlord submits an application for a tenant relocation license, the landlord must deliver a tenant relocation information packet to the tenant. Tenants must apply for relocation assistance within 30 days after the owner delivers them a relocation information packet. Tenants do not automatically get relocation assistance just because the landlord applied for a relocation license. They must take action to apply for the relocation assistance money. Call the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) at 206-615-0808.

How much is relo­ca­tion assistance?

The amount for relocation assistance changes from time to time, but can be up to $3,000. The landlord pays half and the city pays half. See Tenant Relocation Assistance for more details.

What rights do I have if my unit is being con­vert­ed into a condominium?

Both state and municipal laws govern condo conversions in the city of Seattle. State law entitles tenants to 120 days’ notice in the case of condo conversion, and gives renters the right of first refusal to purchase the unit. Seattle also has a relocation requirement for condominium conversions, and requires that landlords inform tenants of the relocation assistance in writing with 120 days’ notice. Households earning less than 80% of area median income will qualify for relocation assistance if they opt not to or cannot purchase and remain in their unit. Qualifying households will receive the equivalent of three months’ rent in relocation assistance. Elderly renters or people with disabilities may receive some additional funds to help with moving costs. The developer must pay this relocation assistance by the date the tenants vacate the units.

RCW 64.34.440(1)(b)’ also states the reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant during the 120-day notice period. During the notice period immediately preceding a condo conversion, tenants can be evicted for failing pay rent, causing a waste or nuisance on the property, or violating another tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the property, or any other reason listed in RCW 59.12.030, such as failure to comply with a 10-day notice to comply or vacate.

How much notice am I enti­tled to before my land­lord enters my unit?

Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, landlords must give forty-eight hours written notice to enter your unit, or twenty-four hours’ notice if they are showing the unit to a new prospective tenant or purchaser (RCW 59.18.150).

Do I have to let my land­lord enter the unit?

Yes. RCW 59.18.150 also requires that tenants must make the unit available for entry when necessary for inspection or repairs. Tenants must make the unit available to the landlord within reasonable times as well. If the landlord’s entry time doesn’t work for you, it’s a good idea to document that in writing to the landlord and suggest alternate times that you can make the unit available.

Does the notice to enter have to be in writing?

Yes, the notice must be in writing and provide the specific dates and time ranges the landlord expects to be in the unit.

What are rea­son­able times” for the land­lord to enter?

The law doesn’t specifically define reasonable times for the landlord to enter, but business hours (8 am – 6 pm) might be a good guideline to use. You can negotiate with your landlord to specifically define those hours together.

Can I insist on being present in the unit when the land­lord comes in?

The Landlord-Tenant Act does not allow for tenants to require that they be present during landlord entry, but tenants certainly have the right to ask to be present for any and all inspections by the landlord. If you are not certain what the inspection will entail, and you have concerns about it, look at your rental agreement to see if it offers any details on the frequency and purpose of landlord inspections. Tenants can also ask the landlord questions and ask for more details before an inspection.

Do I have to let the land­lord enter specif­i­cal­ly on the day and time that they give notice to come?

You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to come up with a day and time that works better for you. Tenants are required to allow the landlord entry to the unit within reasonable times. If the day and time that the landlord gave notice for doesn’t work for you, you may make the unit available for entry on alternate dates.

For what rea­sons can the land­lord legal­ly enter my unit? Does the land­lord have to explain their rea­sons for entry to me?

The Landlord-Tenant Act allows landlords to enter units to make agreed upon repairs, perform maintenance and do inspections. Landlords may also enter your unit in case of an emergency or to address an urgent problem. Landlords cannot abuse their right of access to your unit or use it to harass you. Neither does the law require that landlords officially disclose their reasons for entry, but tenants may still ask for detailed explanations.

How often can the land­lord enter or inspect my unit?

The law does not specifically say how often a landlord can enter a unit, but it does say that landlords cannot abuse their right of access or use it to harass the tenant.

Do the pri­va­cy laws include the land­lord com­ing onto the rental prop­er­ty and not just inside the unit?

The Landlord-Tenant Act refers specifically to the dwelling unit, though other laws may pertain to this situation. It may be a good idea to document in writing all the different instances the landlord comes into the property or on the premises. Keep in mind that RCW 59.18.150 prohibits the landlord from using their right of access to harass you. Contact an attorney for legal assistance and guidance.

Can I refuse my land­lord right of entry to my unit?

Tenants may refuse a landlord entry if they have not given proper legal notice to enter. RCW 59.18.150 also requires that tenants must make the unit available for entry when necessary for inspection or repairs. If your landlord violates your rights to privacy by entering the unit without giving the proper notice, you can send a letter to the landlord detailing the date and time of the alleged violation. Take a look at an Invasion of Privacy Sample Letter. It is always a good idea to send letters certified mail and first class mail, so you can prove that they were sent. Be sure and keep a copy of the letter for your records. Once the landlord receives this letter, you have the right to take the landlord to Small Claims Court to sue for up to $100 per subsequent violation of your notice rights. Likewise, the landlord can pursue the same remedy against the tenant if the tenant is unreasonably denying them access to the unit.

Can the land­lord give me a notice that they’re going to enter any­time dur­ing the day, or any­time dur­ing the week?

RCW 59.18.150 states that the landlord’s written notice for entry must specify exact dates and times for entry or list a specific time period, including earliest and latest possible times for entry on the specified date. The landlord’s notice must also include a telephone number for the tenant to reach the landlord in order to reschedule the entry. Tenants can also respond back in writing to a notice of entry that is extremely broad, cite the legal requirements and ask to set up a more specific time for landlord entry.

My neigh­bor plays loud music and vio­lates qui­et hours. How can I get them to stop?

It is up to you to decide what problem-solving strategies make the most sense in your situation. You could try communicating directly with your neighbors about your concerns, or making complaints in writing to the landlord regarding the problem. It is up to the landlord to enforce the rules of tenancy in the building or complex. If your landlord isn’t responsive, you can document the situation in writing and send the landlord a letter addressing your concerns. You can also try pursuing Dispute Resolution with your neighbors directly in an attempt to resolve the problem. See Negotiation Process for examples of options you can use to try and resolve problems with your neighbors.

My neigh­bor smokes inside their unit, and the smoke is com­ing into my apart­ment. What can I do?

You can try many of the negotiating tools described in Negotiation Process above to help you solve the problem of second-hand smoke. You can refer to your written rental agreement to see what the smoking policy is, though keep in mind your rental agreement may not be exactly the same as your neighbors. You may also try the process described in “Repairs’:/rights/section/repairs. If you are a person with a disability, and the smoke is significantly impacting your health and wellbeing, you may try to contact a civil rights agency for more information about fair housing and reasonable accommodation. You can contact the American Lung Association of Washington and Puget Sound Clean Air for more information. See also Fair Housing & Disability Laws for a list of fair housing agencies in your area.

How can I get the land­lord to remove my name from the lease or rental agree­ment after I vacate a shared hous­ing situation?

It is best practice to send all your communications with your landlord in writing, sending your letters and documentation by certified mail with a return receipt requested. You can notify the landlord that you are vacating the property and request that your name be removed from the rental agreement. If the landlord does not do so, you can document your removal from the household in writing, and ask that all former roommates sign it to show that you have vacated the house. Send a copy to your landlord, certified mail return receipt. Even if you do this, you will likely still be considered a party to the lease. This means that you could still be liable for non-paid rent or be the party to an eviction suit if one is filed.

Can I be held respon­si­ble if my room­mate vio­lates a term of the lease, or doesn’t pay their por­tion of the rent? Can I be evict­ed if my room­mate doesn’t pay the rent?

Unless each resident has a separate lease, any notice that the landlord sends regarding rule violations or nonpayment of rent applies to everyone on the rental agreement, and not the individual tenant at fault. If one tenant is late or delinquent on their rent, everyone on the rental agreement can be evicted. In a situation where one roommate does not pay their rent, the other tenants in the unit may choose to cover the cost of the delinquent tenant’s rent in order to avoid facing eviction. They may send a letter to the landlord documenting that one tenant did not pay their portion, and then they may try to recover rent from the roommate who did not pay, or in small claims court if necessary.

How should deposits be han­dled when there are dif­fer­ent room­mates mov­ing in and out of a house where all the ten­ants are on the same rental agreement?

There are several possible options for how deposit money is dealt with in shared living arrangements. Look to the rental agreement first to see how deposits are dealt with, and get as many specific details as you can in writing from the landlord on how roommate changes should happen. Deposit costs may be divided among each tenant moving into a unit, or may be paid individually. If it is not set out in your rental agreement, be sure to get thorough documentation of the amount each tenant pays, and what the landlord requires when one tenant vacates and another moves in. The landlord may have the new person moving in pass their deposit money to the tenant moving out. Tenants who vacate while the rental agreement is still in effect may have the benefit of not having damages or cleaning charges immediately deducted from their deposit, but they may legally still be held responsible for deposit deductions even after move-out.

Can I kick a room­mate out of the house?

Roommates can ask one particular member of the household to leave, but a landlord is the only one who can initiate eviction procedures or terminate tenancy. However, in the case of roommates who are under the same rental agreement, 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.

I live in a house with room­mates, and we’re all on the rental agree­ment. When one per­son decides to vacate, do they still have to give 20 days’ notice?

It is always a good idea for tenants to give written notice before they vacate a unit. In the case of multiple tenants on the same contract, document as much as possible in writing to the landlord. If the tenant is vacating, especially if they are breaking the lease, it is best to do so with the landlord’s knowledge and cooperation. Look to the lease to see what rules, if any, apply to this situation. Month-to-month tenants are required to give 20 days’ notice before the date that rent is due. Be sure and get documentation that your name has been removed from the lease once you vacate.

Do we need the landlord’s per­mis­sion to add some­one new onto the lease?

Yes. It is a good idea to always get the landlord’s permission in writing before any changes happen in the household. Some landlords may be flexible with tenants selecting and moving a new roommate into the household, but the landlord does have the right to screen and approve any new residents. Generally speaking, everyone who signs an agreement initially also has to sign any changes that the landlord wants to later make to that agreement.