Landlord Tenant Law

We do not represent landlords in landlord tenant issues, we only represent tenants.  Because we are primarily debt law attorneys, our primary focus on tenants rights focuses on cases involving numbers such as lease break, deposit return, and defending against claims for damage.  We do other aspects such as eviction defense, consultation on your rights, and other types of claims on a case by case basis.

Deposit Dispute Self Review

TO SCHEDULE REGARDING A DEPOSIT RETURN OR CLAIM EXCEEDING YOUR DEPOSIT:

If you are dealing with a deposit return case or a claim for sums above the deposit, it is a free initial phone consultation.  Go to our scheduling page to get our intake form.  Generally we will only ask for the damage itemization to review.

  • Free initial phone consultation for Deposit cases
  • Please fill out our intake form and include a copy of the deposit itemization in pdf format
  • Send the intake to info@wadebtlaw.com, please allow 1-2 business days to process

 

TO SCHEDULE FOR ANY OTHER TENANT RELATED MATTER: 

If you are dealing with any other issue, unfortunately, we do not offer free consultation and charge a nominal $150.00 to review your situation and discuss your rights.  Common situations include, but are not limited to, lease break, illegal evictions, violation of just cause ordinance, discrimination, habitability, and any other tenant related situation.  Go to our scheduling page to get our intake form and our paralegals will contact you to let you know what documents we will need and other relevant steps.

  • Not a free consultation, we charge a nominal $150.00 for most situations.  Complex cases might require additional fees, depending upon the extent of documentation to review.
  • Please fill out our intake form, do not include any paperwork at this time as we do not know what we need
  • Please allow 1-2 business days for our staff to review your intake and reach out to discuss what documents we will need and to give you an appropriate fee quote.

 

USEFUL LINKS

 

RECENT LAW CHANGES

  • HB 1074 and SB 5197 includes many important new protections and changes for tenants
  • Increase to 30 days for the landlord to send the damage itemization (21 days prior)
  • Definition of wear and tear made explicit, see RCW 59.18.030(39)
  • Cleaning and repair fees can’t be charged for ordinary wear and tear
  • Cleaning and repair fees for ordinary wear and tear can’t be reported to credit agencies
  • Remote hearings for eviction hearings can be requested

 

Tenant Services

Our services focus on debt and consumer protection issues surrounding tenancy.  We do not take all types of cases, rather, claims revolving around numbers as well as just cause violation evictions.

How we can help

We focus on dealing with landlords when it comes to deposit returns, collection claims, and negotiations.  We start by verifying that the landlord’s claims are legally valid and within industry standard.  We next identify any counter claims and leverage.  We then review your legal options from a litigation, settlement, bankruptcy, and out of court perspective.  For just cause violations, we review the facts and circumstances and can litigate, negotiate, and resolve the issue.

Common Counterclaims and Defenses to Collection

Successful Case Examples

Case 1: Tenant paid a portion of their deposit over time after they moved in.  The property manager failed to account for this deposit when itemizing damages after the tenant moved out.  The tenant has breached the lease and left early.  Landlord tried to charge around 10,000.00 in missed rent and damages.  Settlement after filing suit was a wipe out the claim and a settlement of $5,000.00.

Case 2: Landlord used unlicensed contractors to perform repairs.  The invoices were unreasonable and above market.  We wiped out a claim of around $7,000.00 with a mutual waiver of rights agreement without filing suit based on a threat of litigation.

Case 3: Landlord sent an 60 day notice to vacate as they were planning to move in.  We researched where the landlord lived and the value of the property and sent them a letter that our client would move but we would investigate if their present house was sold and if they actually physically occupied the rental.  The landlord capitulated and the tenant stayed the term based upon an email.  No litigation required.

Case 4: Landlord claimed a deposit was forfeit due to an early move out.  Forfeit means they wiped it out like it never existed.  We filed suit and settled for a wipe out of damages and a $5k settlement.

Case 5: Landlord refused to repair certain issues.  We sent a letter of termination for failure to repair to the landlord and client successfully ended the lease.  The landlord chose to handle the deposit properly and fairly so no further legal work was necessary.

 

Washington State Law Regarding Deposits: RCW 59.18.280

For a landlord to retain any portion of your deposit, they must:

  1. Have placed your deposit into an escrow account separate from your rent
  2. Have an initial walkthrough signed by both you and them (or their agent)
  3. Have sent an itemized list of charges they intend to keep within 30 days of move out (time can very by agreement or if you are under the older 14 days standard)

Violations of the above enables you to sue for up to TWO TIMES the deposit amount and obtain attorney fees.  However, this amount can be offset by legitimate damages to the property or lost rents.  Accordingly, we advise caution before bringing suit and have the below rules of thumb that we use to accept clients.

  1. Is the total amount that your landlord is retaining of your deposit below $1,000.00?  In general, cleaning and carpet fees plus modest painting will often time be between $500.00 to $1,000.00.  If you bring suit and the charges are legitimate and defensible, you may have to pay their fees.
  2. Is your landlord charging you for more than two months of lost rents? In general, it takes a month or two to re-rent a unit.  If it takes three or more months, there needs to be a good reason.  This is generally going to be held to be commercially reasonable.  You may want to check the unit to ensure it was re-rented and if the landlord is double dipping.
  3. Are parts and labor all listed as round numbers (meaning no tax added)? This is a hallmark of potential fraud.  Sometimes estimates alone may be used as a basis for recovery but usually it means they didn’t actually pay for it.
  4. Are the parts and labor amounts above market?  Price things out yourself and call vendors to see what is commercially reasonable.  Ask the landlord for receipts.
  5. Are the things they are claiming that need to be replaced old?  They don’t get to replace 10 year old carpet that is beyond expected life with fresh new carpet.  The landlord does not get to charge for wear and tear or refurbish the unit on your back.
  6. Is the landlord charging both liquidated damages (lease break fee) and lost rents? Its one or the other, not both.  If your landlord is charging you for both, it represents a potential breach of contract and possibly a consumer protection violation.
  7. Is the landlord claiming your deposits are forfeit?  This is not allowed under Washington law and must be applied against charges, not just zeroed out as if it never existed.

If the amount the landlord is keeping exceeds $1,000.00 and there are one or more potential red flags, suing or countersuing may be appropriate.

Even if the amount is reasonable, we can still attempt to settle, use bankruptcy, or other methods to avoid paying some or all of the debt owed.

If you are facing a deposit or collection issue relating to your tenancy, give us a call to schedule a free initial phone consultation to see how we can help.  206-535-2559.

 

Tenant Issue Guide

Below is a quick list of relevant code sections and recommended first steps.