In Washington, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by RCW § 59.18.060. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.
Applicable Dwelling Types in Washington
The implied warranty of habitability in Washington does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.
|Dwelling Type||Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?|
|RV parks||Not addressed|
|Mobile home parks||Only if person in mobile home is renter, not owner|
Landlord Responsibilities in Washington
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 Issue||Landlord 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.||Yes|
|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/cooking||Not 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 detectors||Yes|
|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|
Landlords in Washington must maintain their rental property to follow health and safety laws, codes, statutes and ordinances. It is the landlord’s responsibility to keep the common areas of the premises in a safe, clean and sanitary manner to decrease any accidents or fire hazards.
Landlords are required to keep multi-family rental units free from infestations of pests, rodents, and insects.
Landlords are required to give tenants information from the Department of Health about the dangers of indoor mold, and what tenants can do to prevent mold growth.
Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Washington
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 notice must include the name of the owner (if known), the address of the dwelling unit, and the issue they want the landlord to fix. The landlord will then have 24 hours in emergency situations (includes heat, hot and cold water, and electricity) or issues that are imminently hazardous to life. Landlords have less than 72 hours if the issue affects the refrigerator, oven or range, or a major plumbing issue. Any other issue should be corrected within ten days.
- Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs during reasonable hours. However, a landlord must give tenants 48 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.
Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made in Washington
If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.
- Withhold Rent – Washington landlord tenant law does not allow tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
- Repair and Deduct – Tenants have the right to have the repair done by a licensed contractor and then deduct the actual costs from future rent payments. Tenants can deduct up to two months’ worth of rent and can also do the repairs themselves (without hiring a licensed professional, if applicable) and may deduct the cost of repairs from the rent if the total cost of repair is no more than one month’s rent.
- Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
- 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 in Washington
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.
- 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.