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Your rights as a tenant

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While finding a new place to live is exciting, it isn’t always a risk free endeavor. 

Everything from a broken faucet to a careless landlord can complicate your living situation. 

Luckily, as a tenant you have certain rights that can make all the difference. Here is a list of some of your most important rights as a tenant in Seattle as outlined by Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws:

Obligations of Landlords:

Landlords in Seattle are required to provide tenants with living conditions that are clean, safe, and secure. This includes maintaining the structural integrity of the building, ensuring that utilities function, and keeping fire alarms in operation, as well as getting rid of rodents and changing the locks on doors when appropriate. However, landlords are not responsible for cosmetic improvements.

Obligations of Tenants:

Tenants are required to maintain the safety and cleanliness of the rental housing. This includes taking out garbage, avoiding the storage of dangerous materials in the building, and repairing damages caused by the tenant. It also mandates that tenants allow for inspection, maintenance, and pest control.

The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance: 

Landlords must have a just cause for evicting a tenant and must warn the tenant of the eviction at least 20 days before the next rental period. 

Just cause can include the tenant not paying rent within three days of receiving a notice, the tenant paying rent late four times in a single year, and the tenant failing to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or with their obligations under Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws within 10 days of receiving a notice. 

Other reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant include the tenant causing serious damage to the building, engaging in illegal activities within the rental housing, and the landlord wishing to demolish or personally occupy the building. 

Eviction During Covid-19:

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Mayor Jenny Durkin recently extended Seattle’s eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. This means that renters cannot be evicted unless they present an immediate threat to life and safety. Late fees and rent increases are also prohibited for the duration of the eviction moratorium. 

Actions Considered to be Harassment or Retaliation:

It is considered harassment or retaliation for landlords to tamper with locks on doors; remove fixtures, such as windows; stop providing utilities; remove the tenant outside of a formal eviction process; enter the tenant’s unit without a two day notice; or increase rent without proper notice. 

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It is also retaliation or harassment for a tenant to change locks on doors, remove fixtures from the unit, or purposefully damage the building. 

Increase in Housing Cost:

Landlords must give tenants a warning 30 days before a rent increase of less than 10 percent. A warning must come 60 days before an increase of more than 10 percent. Increases in rent can only occur at the beginning of a rental period. Additionally, rent cannot be increased if the unit does not meet the minimum habitability standards. 

Security Deposits:

The amount of a security deposit must be specified in the rental agreement and cannot be greater than the cost of the first month’s rent. The landlord must also provide the tenant with a list that specifies under what conditions the security deposit will be withheld. 

Pet Deposits: 

Pet deposits cannot exceed 25% of the cost of the first month’s rent and cannot be required if the animal is an assistance animal. As with security deposits, pet deposits must be specified in the rental agreement.

Move-in Fees:

Move-in fees cannot surpass the cost to obtain a background check or credit report and to pay to clean the unit after the tenant leaves. Additionally, move-in fees cannot exceed 10% of the cost of the first month’s rent. 

If you feel that any of your rights as a tenant have been or are currently being violated, you can go to Student Legal Services and schedule a free consultation. 


Reach reporter Asad Tacy at Instagram @asadtacy

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(1) comment


You might want to add that if your landlord breaks the law it's your responsibility to document everything and hire an attorney to sue your landlord. The city, county, and state do not record, investigate, or enforce any of these laws. Your landlord can bill you any amount of money they wish, including tens of thousands of dollars when you leave, send it to collections if you dispute the amount, and the collections agency can get a default judgment and garnish your wages with interest by suing you behind your back at your old address. Your only recourse for any of this are lawsuits that you have to hire an attorney for. The government will not intervene in any meaningful way despite all of the above being highly illegal.

Also, if you are contacted by or see Genesis Credit management on your credit report consult an attorney immediately. They will tack on interest illegally and demand you pay them about $1000 more than they claim you owe (also illegal) to stop blocking you from qualifying for housing. They're sued regularly for this and harassing your family and coworkers to coerce payment. Again, the city, county, and state will not record, investigate, or intervene in any meaningful way. It's your sole responsibility to document everything, hire an attorney and sue them.

The best advice I have for anyone is to find out who owns the property your interested in, do a google/yelp search then follow up with looking into consumer and BBB complaints. (Watch out for Tecton Corporation. Their properties are roach infested and they will scam you when you leave.) Don't sign a lease for more than six months and get month to month if possible. This will minimize your liability if your unit is infested with roaches or bedbugs, your neighbors are disruptive, your unit isn't being maintained, your roommate leaves suddenly, you lose your job or suddenly have to leave for some reason. Renting the unit out to someone else after you've left while sending the remainder of your lease to collections is illegal, but you'll have to prove it yourself in court with absolutely no help from law enforcement.

Good luck and remember, your landlord isn't your friend. Your landlord is there to bill you for the highest amount possible while investing the least amount possible.

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