In general, a landlord in Washington has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must begin repairs within1-10 daysof getting written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs, depending on the specific issue.
Washington Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Washington landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Garbage containers and removal (except in single-family residences).
Required smoke alarms (CO detectors are provided by the landlord but maintained by the tenant).
Locks and keys.
Structural components like walls and foundations.
Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Washington?
Washington tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the propertywhich affects health and safety.
On a case by case basis, the landlord and tenant can agree for the tenant to handle repairs that would normally be the landlord’s responsibility. The tenant has to receive a cash payment or reasonable deduction in rent for agreeing to such an arrangement.
Requesting Repairs in Washington
Washington tenants must request repairsby providing the landlord written notice about the issue that needs repair.The notice has to specify the condition in need of repair, the location of the rental property, and (if known) the owner of the building.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Washington?
Washington landlords have different amounts of time to begin repairs after getting proper written notice about an issue from the tenant, depending on the specific issue:
Refrigerator, range, oven, or major plumbing fixture:72 hours.
All other issues:10 days.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Washington?
Washington landlordscan refuse to make repairsin certain cases. They don’t have to repair issues caused by the tenant, except as needed to comply with local building codes. They can also refuse to repair if the tenant unreasonably refuses to allow sufficient access to the property.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Washington?
Washington landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs. However, a situation that requires the tenant to move out for repairs may be a constructive eviction that lets the tenant end the lease and stop paying rent after moving out.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Washington
Washington tenants cancancel the rental agreementif the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, in many situations. They might alsosue for damagesorget an injunctionto force repairs, orrepair and deductfor repairs of lesser cost.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Washington?
Washington tenants arenot allowed to unilaterally withhold rent.To receive a legal excuse from paying the rent, a tenant must get permission to do so through a court process or an appointed arbitrator.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Washington?
Washington tenantscan arrange for repairs and deductfrom the rent when landlords don’t begin repairs within the required time after getting notice. The procedure and deductible amount depend on whether the tenant provides the landlord a written, good-faith estimate of costs (which can be attached to the repair request).
If the tenant provides no estimate to the landlord,the tenant can begin repairs as soon as the notice period expires. No-estimate repairs can only cost, and deduct, up to one month’s rent per 12-month period. The repairs canonlybe of a type which doesn’t legally require licensed professionals.
If the tenantdoesprovide an estimate,the tenant must wait until the notice period expires, or two days after the landlord gets the repair request (whichever is later). Tenants can deduct costs up to two months’ rent per 12-month period. Repairs that require licensed professionalsmustuse this procedure.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Washington?
Washington tenantscan break their lease1-10 days after the landlord receives written notice, depending on the issue, for failure to begin repairing issues that weren’t the tenant’s responsibility, or for other uncorrected breaches of the rental agreement.
Can the Tenant Sue in Washington?
Washington tenantscan sueto force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Washington?
Washington tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.
It’s illegal for Washington landlords to retaliate withraised rent,increased tenant obligations, reduced services,orevictionagainst tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past 90 days:
Complaints to the government about health and safety violations on the rental property.
Attempts to enforce lawful rights given under the law or the lease (for example, giving proper written notice to the landlord about required repairs under Washington’s landlord-tenant act).
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
“If at any time during the tenancy the landlord fails to carry out the duties required by RCW 59.18.060 [landlord’s duty to maintain the property] or by the rental agreement, the tenant may, in addition to pursuit of remedies otherwise provided him or her by law, deliver written notice to the person designated in RCW 59.18.060(14) [authorized agent of landlord; actually subsection (15) after an amendment to the law], or to the person who collects the rent, which notice shall specify the premises involved, the name of the owner, if known, and the nature of the defective condition. The landlord shall commence remedial action after receipt of such notice by the tenant as soon as possible but not later than the following time periods, except where circumstances are beyond the landlord’s control: (1) Not more than twenty-four hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or is imminently hazardous to life; (2) Not more than seventy-two hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord; and (3) Not more than ten days in all other cases. In each instance the burden shall be on the landlord to see that remedial work under this section is completed promptly. If completion is delayed due to circumstances beyond the landlord’s control, including the unavailability of financing, the landlord shall remedy the defective condition as soon as possible.”
“The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular: (1) Maintain the premises to substantially comply with any applicable code, statute, ordinance, or regulation governing their maintenance or operation, which the legislative body enacting the applicable code, statute, ordinance or regulation could enforce as to the premises rented if such condition endangers or impairs the health or safety of the tenant; (2) Maintain the structural components including, but not limited to, the roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, foundations, and all other structural components, in reasonably good repair so as to be usable; (3) Keep any shared or common areas reasonably clean, sanitary, and safe from defects increasing the hazards of fire or accident.”
“The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular: (4) Provide a reasonable program for the control of infestation by insects, rodents, and other pests at the initiation of the tenancy and, except in the case of a single-family residence, control infestation during tenancy except where such infestation is caused by the tenant; (5) Except where the condition is attributable to normal wear and tear, make repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in as good condition as it by law or rental agreement should have been, at the commencement of the tenancy; (6) Provide reasonably adequate locks and furnish keys to the tenant; (7) Maintain and safeguard with reasonable care any master key or duplicate keys to the dwelling unit.”
“The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular: (8) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances supplied by him or her in reasonably good working order; (9) Maintain the dwelling unit in reasonably weathertight condition; (10) Except in the case of a single-family residence, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles in common areas for the removal of ashes, rubbish, and garbage, incidental to the occupancy and arrange for the reasonable and regular removal of such waste; (11) Provide facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant.”
“The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular: (a) Provide a written notice to all tenants disclosing fire safety and protection information. The landlord or his or her authorized agent must provide a written notice to the tenant that the dwelling unit is equipped with a smoke detection device as required in RCW 43.44.110. The notice shall inform the tenant of the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the smoke detection device in proper operating condition and of penalties for failure to comply with the provisions of RCW 43.44.110(3). The notice must be signed by the landlord or the landlord’s authorized agent and tenant with copies provided to both parties. Further, except with respect to a single-family residence, the written notice must also disclose the following: (i) Whether the smoke detection device is hard-wired or battery operated; (ii) Whether the building has a fire sprinkler system; (iii) Whether the building has a fire alarm system; (iv) Whether the building has a smoking policy, and what that policy is; (v) Whether the building has an emergency notification plan for the occupants and, if so, provide a copy to the occupants; (vi) Whether the building has an emergency relocation plan for the occupants and, if so, provide a copy to the occupants; and (vii) Whether the building has an emergency evacuation plan for the occupants and, if so, provide a copy to the occupants. (b) The information required under this subsection may be provided to a tenant in a multifamily residential building either as a written notice or as a checklist that discloses whether the building has fire safety and protection devices and systems. The checklist shall include a diagram showing the emergency evacuation routes for the occupants. (c) The written notice or checklist must be provided to new tenants at the time the lease or rental agreement is signed.”
“The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular provide tenants with information provided or approved by the department of health about the health hazards associated with exposure to indoor mold. Information may be provided in written format individually to each tenant, or may be posted in a visible, public location at the dwelling unit property. The information must detail how tenants can control mold growth in their dwelling units to minimize the health risks associated with indoor mold. Landlords may obtain the information from the department’s website or, if requested by the landlord, the department must mail the information to the landlord in a printed format. When developing or changing the information, the department of health must include representatives of landlords in the development process. The information must be provided by the landlord to new tenants at the time the lease or rental agreement is signed.”
“The landlord and his or her agents and employees are immune from civil liability for failure to comply with subsection (13) of this section except where the landlord and his or her agents and employees knowingly and intentionally do not comply with subsection (13) of this section.”
“By July 1, 2010, the building code council shall adopt rules requiring that all buildings classified as residential occupancies, as defined in the state building code in chapter 51-54 WAC, but excluding owner-occupied single-family residences legally occupied before July 26, 2009, be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms.”
Maintenance of fire safety systems is usually the landlord’s responsibility under the International Building Code which Washington incorporates, e.g., 2018 Int’l Fire Code § 907.8.5 (2018) (“The building owner shall be responsible to maintain the fire and life safety systems in an operable condition at all times.”). However, Washington makes the tenant explicitly responsible for maintenance of CO detectors:
“The rules adopted by the building code council under this section must (a) consider applicable nationally accepted standards and (b) require that the maintenance of a carbon monoxide alarm in a building where a tenancy exists, including the replacement of batteries, is the responsibility of the tenant, who shall maintain the alarm as specified by the manufacturer.” Rev. Code Wa. § 19.27.530(1) (2022)
“No duty shall devolve upon the landlord to repair a defective condition under this section [59.18.060, landlord’s duties], nor shall any defense or remedy be available to the tenant under this chapter, where the defective condition complained of was caused by the conduct of such tenant, his or her family, invitee, or other person acting under his or her control, or where a tenant unreasonably fails to allow the landlord access to the property for purposes of repair. When the duty imposed by subsection (1) of this section is incompatible with and greater than the duty imposed by any other provisions of this section, the landlord’s duty shall be determined pursuant to subsection (1) of this section.”
“Nothing in this section shall prevent the tenant from agreeing with the landlord to undertake the repairs himself or herself in return for cash payment or a reasonable reduction in rent. Any such agreement does not alter the landlord’s obligations under this chapter.”
A constructive eviction occurs when the landlord takes actions that completely prevent the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the property such that the tenant moves out of the property. This terminates the lease, although the issue often has to be litigated in court. See generallyAro Glass & Upholstery Co. v. Munson-Smith Motors, Inc., 12 Wn. App. 6, 8 (Wash. Ct. App. 1974) (“A constructive eviction occurs when there is an intentional or injurious interference by the landlord or those acting under his authority, which deprives the tenant of the means or the power of beneficial enjoyment of the demised premises or any part thereof, or materially impairs such beneficial enjoyment.”)
“If, after receipt of written notice, and expiration of the applicable period of time, as provided in RCW 59.18.070, the landlord fails to remedy the defective condition within a reasonable time the tenant may: (1) Terminate the rental agreement and quit the premises upon written notice to the landlord without further obligation under the rental agreement, in which case he or she shall be discharged from payment of rent for any period following the quitting date, and shall be entitled to a pro rata refund of any prepaid rent, and shall receive a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with any refund due in accordance with RCW 59.18.280; (2) Bring an action in an appropriate court, or at arbitration if so agreed, for any remedy provided under this chapter or otherwise provided by law; or (3) Pursue other remedies available under this chapter.”
“If, at any time during the tenancy, the landlord fails to carry out any of the duties imposed by RCW 59.18.060, and notice of the defect is given to the landlord pursuant to RCW 59.18.070, the tenant may submit to the landlord or his or her designated agent by first-class mail or in person a good faith estimate by the tenant of the cost to perform the repairs necessary to correct the defective condition if the repair is to be done by licensed or registered persons, or if no licensing or registration requirement applies to the type of work to be performed, the cost if the repair is to be done by responsible persons capable of performing such repairs. Such estimate may be submitted to the landlord at the same time as notice is given pursuant to RCW 59.18.070. The remedy provided in this section shall not be available for a landlord’s failure to carry out the duties in RCW 59.18.060 (9) and (14). If the tenant utilizes this section for repairs pursuant to RCW 59.18.060(6), the tenant shall promptly provide the landlord with a key to any new or replaced locks. The amount the tenant may deduct from the rent may vary from the estimate, but cannot exceed the two-month limit as described in subsection (2) of this section.”
“If the landlord fails to commence remedial action of the defective condition within the applicable time period after receipt of notice and the estimate from the tenant, the tenant may contract with a licensed or registered person, or with a responsible person capable of performing the repair if no license or registration is required, to make the repair. Upon the completion of the repair and an opportunity for inspection by the landlord or his or her designated agent, the tenant may deduct the cost of repair from the rent in an amount not to exceed the sum expressed in dollars representing two month’s rental of the tenant’s unit per repair. When the landlord must commence to remedy the defective condition within ten days as provided in RCW 59.18.070(3), the tenant cannot contract for repairs for ten days after notice or two days after the landlord receives the estimate, whichever is later. The total costs of repairs deducted in any twelve-month period under this subsection shall not exceed the sum expressed in dollars representing two month’s rental of the tenant’s unit.”
“If the landlord fails to carry out the duties imposed by RCW 59.18.060 within the applicable time period, and if the cost of repair does not exceed one month’s rent, including the cost of materials and labor, which shall be computed at the prevailing rate in the community for the performance of such work, and if repair of the condition need not by law be performed only by licensed or registered persons, and if the tenant has given notice under RCW 59.18.070, although no estimate shall be necessary under this subsection, the tenant may repair the defective condition in a workmanlike manner and upon completion of the repair and an opportunity for inspection, the tenant may deduct the cost of repair from the rent. Repairs under this subsection are limited to defects within the leased premises. The cost per repair shall not exceed one month’s rent of the unit and the total costs of repairs deducted in any twelve-month period under this subsection shall not exceed one month’s rent of the unit.”
“So long as the tenant is in compliance with this chapter, the landlord shall not take or threaten to take reprisals or retaliatory action against the tenant because of any good faith and lawful complaints or reports by the tenant to a governmental authority concerning the failure of the landlord to substantially comply with any code, statute, ordinance, or regulation governing the maintenance or operation of the premises, if such condition may endanger or impair the health or safety of the tenant.”
“So long as the tenant is in compliance with this chapter, the landlord shall not take or threaten to take reprisals or retaliatory action against the tenant because of any good faith and lawful assertions or enforcement by the tenant of his or her rights and remedies under this chapter. ‘Reprisal or retaliatory action’ shall mean and include but not be limited to any of the following actions by the landlord when such actions are intended primarily to retaliate against a tenant because of the tenant’s good faith and lawful act: (a) Eviction of the tenant; (b) Increasing the rent required of the tenant; (c) Reduction of services to the tenant; and (d) Increasing the obligations of the tenant.”
“Initiation by the landlord of any action listed in RCW 59.18.240 [landlord retaliation statute] within ninety days after a good faith and lawful act by the tenant as enumerated in RCW 59.18.240, or within ninety days after any inspection or proceeding of a governmental agency resulting from such act, shall create a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof, that the action is a reprisal or retaliatory action against the tenant:
“PROVIDED, That if at the time the landlord gives notice of termination of tenancy pursuant to chapter 59.12 RCW the tenant is in arrears in rent or in breach of any other lease or rental obligation, there is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that the landlord’s action is neither a reprisal nor retaliatory action against the tenant: “PROVIDED FURTHER, That if the court finds that the tenant made a complaint or report to a governmental authority within ninety days after notice of a proposed increase in rent or other action in good faith by the landlord, there is a rebuttable presumption that the complaint or report was not made in good faith:
“PROVIDED FURTHER, That no presumption against the landlord shall arise under this section, with respect to an increase in rent, if the landlord, in a notice to the tenant of increase in rent, specifies reasonable grounds for said increase, which grounds may include a substantial increase in market value due to remedial action under this chapter: “PROVIDED FURTHER, That the presumption of retaliation, with respect to an eviction, may be rebutted by evidence that it is not practical to make necessary repairs while the tenant remains in occupancy…”