Landlord Tenant Law

We have extensive experience in landlord tenant law having represented tenants, landlords, property managers, and investors from simple eviction matters to full trial and appeal.

For landlord, property manager, and investor clients, please visit Washington Property Law

For Tenants, we do not offer services other than post move out collection and deposit issues.  For those we cannot assist, please visit our Tenant Resource Page for referrals to pro bono and private attorneys.

Deposit Return, Collection Defense, and Counter Claims for Tenants

We do not offer general tenant services.  If you need general tenant services, please see our Tenant Resource Page.  If you are a landlord, property manager, or investor, please click over to Washington Property Law.

However, if you have moved out and have a dispute over your deposit or are in collections relating to your tenancy, we can help.

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 21 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 place 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.