The City of Seattle prevents landlords from raising rents on units which have severe code violations. This law requires tenants to take several steps in order to delay the rent increase and all of the steps must be completed before the rent increase would come into effect.
The first step is to determine if the repair problems in the tenants unit qualify as “major code violations.” To do this tenants should examine this list. The conditions which are bolded and marked with an asterisk are considered major violations, and would prevent your landlord from raising the rent.
Second, tenants must inform their landlord in writing that there are major repairs needed, what those repairs are specifically, and that if those repairs are not completed the city law prevents the landlord from raising the rent. After the landlord has been notified by the tenant, the tenant also needs to contact the Department of Construction and Inspection at (206) 615-0808 and request an inspection.
The letter to the landlord and the request for inspection from DCI must both be made before the rent increase is scheduled to take effect. Due to availability of city inspectors it is possible that a tenant’s unit will not be inspected until after the date of the rent increase. In this case the tenant must pay the full amount of the rent increase. (It is suggested to write “paying under protest” in the check memo along with the amount that is being paid under protest, which would be the amount the rent was increasing.)
After the unit has been inspected DCI will determine if there are indeed major code violations. If there are major violations, tenants do not need to pay the rent increase but are still responsible for the original rent. If the tenant has already paid the rent increase they are entitled to a refund from their landlord or a credit to their account against future rent payments.
The rent increase will go into effect after the landlord has made the necessary repairs and DCI has verified that they are complete. Once the repairs are verified the rent increase goes into effect. This means that if the repairs are finished and verified in the middle of the month tenants will need to pay a prorated portion of the rent increase. For example if the repairs are verified on the 15th of the month then a tenant would need to pay half of the rent increase for that month.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.