Washington Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. All plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities and smoke detectors must be kept in good repair. Air conditioning is optional, but heating is required (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 10 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant usually can’t withhold rent, but does have right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Washington law. (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Washington does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNot addressed
RV parksNot addressed
Mobile home parksOnly if person in mobile home is renter, not owner
CondosNot addressed
Hotels/MotelsNo

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Washington, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water.Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment.Heat only
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Multi-family units
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectorsYes
Provide a mailbox.Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer.No

Infestations

Landlords are required to keep multi-family rental units free from infestations of pests, rodents, and insects.

Indoor Mold

Landlords are required to give tenants information about the dangers of indoor mold, and what tenants can do to prevent mold growth.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. The landlord will then have 24 hours in emergencies, 72 hours if the issue affects a kitchen appliance or plumbing, and ten days in all other situations to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice.
  • Landlord access.Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs.  However, a landlord must give tenants 48 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Washington landlord tenant law does not allow tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  2. Repair and deduct – tenants have the right to have the repair done by a license contractor and then deduct the actual costs from future rent payments. Tenants can deduct up to two months’ worth of rent. Tenants can also do the repairs themselves (without hiring a licensed professional) and may deduct the cost of repairs from the rent if the total costs of repairs is no more than one month’s rent.
  3. Lawsuit – tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Under Washington state law, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against a tenant for complaining to government agencies about habitability issues, or for exercising their rights under the Act.

Examples of retaliatory actions include:

  • Filing an eviction, or threatening to evict the tenant;
  • Increasing the rent; or
  • Reducing services.

If the landlord tries to do any of these things within 90 days of a tenant filing a formal complaint or exercising their rights, the action is presumed retaliatory.

Sources