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.
The law does not allow a tenant to withhold the rent even when the landlord is not making necessary repairs. In fact, if tenants want access to legal remedies, the law requires them to first be current in rent. You can still request repairs from your landlord if you’re not current in your rent, but you cannot access your remedies under the Landlord-Tenant Act. Withholding your rent will enable your landlord to initiate an eviction action against you for nonpayment. There are other remedies available to tenants to get repairs done while minimizing the threat of housing loss.
Be aware that some landlords may retaliate against you by issuing you a termination notice when you ask for repairs. While retaliation is illegal under landlord-tenant law, it still may be difficult to protect yourself against. Tenants without term leases may be vulnerable to retaliation in the form of a No Cause Notice to vacate. Seattle renters have additional protection in the form of the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. See our Seattle Laws webpage for more information.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.