Landlord-tenant laws cannot help you until you know them and know how to use them. Use Tenants Rights Counseling and this website as resources to learn about your rights. Some landlords will take advantage of tenants who aren’t fully informed about their legal protections. You can find answers to many common questions on this website – or call or visit the Tenants Union for Tenant Rights Counseling.
Always get it in writing! It is a best practice to document all your communications with your landlord in writing, and get proof that they were sent and received. Without written documentation, every repair request or agreement between you and your landlord will come down to your word against theirs. In many places in the law, the tenant is actually not allowed a remedy until the request has been put in writing and sent to the landlord. A thorough paper trail will ensure that you’ll have the proof you need to protect yourself if you end up needing to fight a disputed bill or take your landlord to small claims court. See Best Practices and Tips for Tenants for more information on documentation.
Whether or not the law is on your side, it’s useful to think of all of your interactions with the landlord as negotiation. It can be difficult to get what you want because in many situations the law is inadequate or vague. Landlord-tenant negotiations are by nature imbalanced because ultimately the landlord controls the property. Even when the laws are clear, it is still up to you as a tenant to get them enforced. Written negotiation is your way to communicate your rights and positions to the landlord.
There are a wealth of free resources available to Washington State renters. For instance, you may be able to call local building Code Enforcement to follow up with your landlord to get necessary repairs made. You may also be able to take your landlord to Small Claims Court to collect money owed to you. See Renters Resources for a complete list.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.