What are a residential landlord’s duties in maintaining the premises?
A landlord must keep the premises “fit for human habitation” at all times. RCW 59.18.060.
What does “fit for human habitation” require?
A landlord must keep the dwelling unit safe and livable. This means that landlords must provide adequate heat, hot water, locks, and comply with all other local codes and ordinances governing housing quality. RCW 59.18.060(1).
A landlord must keep structural components such as roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, and foundations, in reasonably good repair so that they are usable. RCW 59.18.060(2). A landlord must keep shared or common areas reasonably clean, sanitary, and safe from defects that could increase the hazards of fire or accidents. RCW 59.18.060(3). In addition, if the landlord supplies any electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances, the landlord must keep them in reasonably good working order. RCW 59.18.060(8). The landlord must also maintain the dwelling unit in reasonably weathertight condition. RCW 59.18.060(9).
For a longer list of a residential landlord’s duties under Washington state law, see RCW 59.18.060.
When must a landlord make repairs?
A tenant must provide the landlord with written notice of the defective conditions on the premises. RCW 59.18.060If a tenant notifies the landlord of a defective condition on the premises, the landlord must begin remedial action as soon as possible. RCW 59.18.070. The landlord has the following time frames to begin repairs:
- If the condition is immediately hazardous to life, or deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, then the landlord must begin repairs within 24 hours of the notice. RCW 59.18.070(1).
- If the condition prevents he tenant from using a refrigerator, range and oven, or other major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord, then the landlord must begin repairs within 72 of the notice. RCW 59.18.070(2).
- For all other defective conditions, the landlord must begin correcting the defect within 10 days. RCW 59.18.070(3).
Washington law requires that landlords begin repairs within this timeline and complete them promptly, unless there are circumstances beyond the landlord’s control. RCW 59.18.070. If the repairs are delayed, then the landlord must complete them as soon as possible. RCW 59.18.070.
Can a tenant withhold rent until a landlord makes repairs?
No, tenants cannot withhold rent to get the landlord to make repairs. RCW 59.18.080. Washington state law gives other remedies to tenants if the landlord fails to make repairs. RCW 59.18.080. However if the landlord does not repair defective conditions and the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord’s failure to make repairs can be raised as a defense in an eviction proceeding. RCW 59.18.080.
Stay tuned for Part II of our Landlord Tenant Q&A Series where we will continue discussing the landlord’s obligations to repair and maintain the premises.
Dimension Law Group has experienced attorneys that know the nuances of landlord/tenant and real estate law and are ready to help. If you have any further questions, please contact our office for a free consultation.