Washington Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Washington Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: August 18, 2023

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 within 1-10 days of 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:

  • Plumbing.
  • Required utilities.
  • Heating.
  • Hot water.
  • Garbage containers and removal (except in single-family residences).
  • Required smoke alarms (CO detectors are provided by the landlord but maintained by the tenant).
  • Provided appliances.
  • Locks and keys.
  • Weatherproofing.
  • Structural components like walls and foundations.
  • Common areas.
  • 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.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Washington?

Washington tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which 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 repairs by 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:

  • Emergencies: 24 hours.
  • Refrigerator, range, oven, or major plumbing fixture: 72 hours.
  • All other issues: 10 days.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Washington?

Washington landlords can refuse to make repairs in 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 are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while 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 can cancel the rental agreement if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, in many situations. They might also sue for damages or get an injunction to force repairs, or repair and deduct for repairs of lesser cost.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Washington?

Washington tenants are not 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 tenants can arrange for repairs and deduct from 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 can only be of a type which doesn’t legally require licensed professionals.

If the tenant does provide 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 professionals must use this procedure.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Washington?

Washington tenants can break their lease 1-10 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 tenants can sue to 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 tenants can report landlords for code violations that 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.

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Landlord Retaliation in Washington

It’s illegal for Washington landlords to retaliate with raised rent, increased tenant obligations, reduced services, or eviction against 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.

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