1. How must a tenant notify the landlord that the dwelling unit needs repairs?
The landlord must receive written notice from the tenant that repairs are needed. The tenant must give written notice to both the landlord and his agents. RCW 59.18.060, RCW 59.18.070.
2. Can a tenant refuse to pay rent if the unit needs repairs?
No, the tenant must be current on rent and utility payments, even if the unit needs repairs. RCW 59.18.080.
3. What are the consequences if a landlord does not make repairs?
If the landlord does not make repairs within the time limits required by RCW 59.18.070, law, the tenant has a choice of remedies under Washington state law.
One option is that the tenant can terminate the rental agreement and move out before the end of the rental period. RCW 59.18.090. The tenant must give the landlord written notice of the termination. The tenant is entitled to a prorated refund of any prepaid rent. RCW 59.18.090. The landlord must still comply with the security deposit requirements. (See our previous article about security deposits here http://www.dimensionlaw.com/landlord-tenant-series-qa-security-deposits-part-2/).
The tenant’s second option is to sue the landlord or to bring the matter for arbitration to compel the landlord to make the repairs or to recover damages. RCW 59.18.090(2).
The tenant’s third option is to arrange for the repairs to be made himself and deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent owed, but the tenant must follow the proper procedures to do this. RCW 59.18.090, RCW 59.18.100.
4. What if the tenant makes the repairs himself?
The tenant cannot make the repairs himself before notifying the landlord of the defect, and allowing the landlord the statutory and reasonable time to repair the defect. RCW 59.18.100.
If the landlord was notified that the dwelling required repairs, and the landlord did not perform them, the tenant must provide the landlord or the landlord’s designated agent a “good faith estimate” of the cost to perform the repairs. RCW 59.18.100(1). The estimate must show that the repair will be done by licensed or registered person, or if no licensing is required, that the persons doing the repairs are capable of performing them. RCW 59.18.100(1). The tenant’s notice to the landlord must state his intention to make the repairs and deduct from the rent if the landlord does not do so within the allowed period of time. RCW 59.18.100.
The tenant can only deduct the repairs once the repairs are completed and the landlord has an opportunity to inspect the work to ensure the work was done properly. The amount deducted cannot be more than the equivalent of two month’s rental of the tenant’s unit per repair. RCW 59.18.100(2).
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.