Duties of Landlords and Tenants in Washington

Duties of Landlords and Tenants in Washington

Renting a property is an agreement between two parties: a shared responsibility of one piece of land. Many disputes arise over a disagreement over who is responsible for what, which is why it’s a good thing that WashinState law details the duties of both tenants and landlords. While the law doesn’t touch on every potential dispute, it does lay out a broad outline of where responsibilities are distributed.


Duties of the Tenant (RCW 59.18.130)


Pay the Rent

This is the most obvious of the tenant duties. When renting, you are obligated to pay the rent agreed to in your rental agreement. 


Keep the Premises Clean

While landlords are required to arrange for waste to be collected regularly for multi-family dwellings, tenants are responsible for ensuring that the waste gets removed. This also covers keeping the premises generally sanitary and deals with any infestations that the tenant is responsible for.


Don’t Damage the Premises

Tenants are responsible for not only not intentionally breaking the premises, but also doing their best to keep them in working condition. This means properly using all the utilities and appliances and making the landlord aware when a problem arises. 


Maintain the Smoke Detectors

This responsibility might seem less intuitive, but it is the responsibility of the tenant to make sure he smoke detectors continue to work as they use the premises. This means replacing the batteries when necessary. It is the responsibility of the landlord to make the tenant aware of this duty.


Don’t Commit Crimes on the Premises

It is the duty of the tenant to not break the law on the premises, meaning no drug-related violations, no gang activity, no illegal firearms, and no assault. 


Return the Premises to the Original Condition Before Moving Out

The tenant is responsible for restoring the property to as close to the original condition as they can prior to leaving. This doesn’t apply to reasonable wear and tear, and shouldn’t apply to cleaning if the tenant paid a non-refundable cleaning fee.


If the Tenant Fails to Fulfill Their Duties

When a tenant fails to comply with their duties within 30 days of a notice of non-compliance by their landlord, their landlord has the right to commence an action for a lawful detainer and the tenancy may be terminated.


Duties of the Landlord (RCW 59.18.060)


Ensure the Premises are Up to Code and Livable

It is the duty of the landlord to ensure that the property they are renting out complies with all applicable codes prior to renting it out. They must also make sure that the premises are structurally sound and safe to reside in.


Have a Plan for Pests

While tenants are responsible for dealing with infestations that they are at fault for, landlords are responsible for dealing with all other infestations. Should a tenant ask for the landlord to handle it, the landlord should have a plan ready.


Keep the Premises Secure

The landlord is responsible for making sure that the property being rented out has sufficient locks and that the tenant is provided with the necessary keys or resources to open them. The landlord is also responsible for holding onto a master key in case the tenant loses their key.


Provide Functional Utilities

The landlord must provide access to heat, electricity, plumbing, and hot and cold water as required by the tenant. Should any damage, not including damage caused by the tenant, put any of these essential utilities out of order, the landlord is required to respond to the situation within 24 hours of being notified of the problem.


Make Tenants Aware of Mold

At the start of every tenancy, the landlord must provide the tenant with the Department of Health-approved information on the risks and hazards associated with exposure to indoor mold. 


Make Tenants Aware of Changes in Ownership

The tenants must be made aware of the designated landlord of the property and how to best contact them. If the designated landlord changes, the tenant must be notified of the change. 


If the Landlord Fails to Fulfill Their Duties

If a landlord doesn’t carry out their duties and fails to do so within a reasonable amount of time as determined by a court or an arbitrator, the value of the property will be diminished. Along with the diminished property value, the value of rent will also be lowered. Any tenants currently paying rent will not be required to pay more than the diminished amount, and if the tenant pays for any repairs the landlord was responsible for the amount they spend is deducted from their rent.

This is a simple overview of one part of Washington’s landlord-tenant law (Chapter 59.18 RCW), meant to provide basic guidelines. For more information on landlord-tenant disputes, contact THWB for a consultation.

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