Evictions – Landlord responsibilities

As a tenant, what duties does a landlord have to me?

As a tenant, your landlord owes you certain responsibilities. Primarily, landlords must ensure that the rental property is safe and habitable. A safe and habitable property is one that is suitable for people to live in and means the landlord fulfills the following duties or obligations. First, landlords must comply with state statutes and regulations, including building codes and local ordinances. Second, landlords must maintain the rental property, including the roof; floor; walls; chimneys; fireplaces; and foundation. Also, the electrical; plumbing; heating; and appliances must be kept in working order. Third, landlords must make any repairs that are needed during the rental period. Fourth, landlords must provide working locks with the property and keep any duplicate keys in a safe place. Finally, landlords must warn you of any defects on the property. 

If you are living in a multi-unit property, there are additional requirements your landlord must follow. First, landlords must keep all common areas clean and safe from any hazards. Second, landlords must supply trash receptacles to tenants. Third, landlords must provide tenants with Notice of the following things regarding fire safety:

  • general fire safety information;
  • locations of fire detectors;
  • whether the rental property has a sprinkler system;
  • whether the rental property has a fire alarm system; and
  • whether the rental property has emergency notification, evacuation, and relocation plans.

If they have any, landlords must provide copies of these fire safety plans to tenants in the form of written notice or checklists with diagrams of the routes. In addition, landlords must specify whether the rental property has a smoking policy and must explain the rules for smoking in or around the property. Finally, landlord must provide tenants with particular information on certain health hazards. Specifically, health hazards regarding indoor mold exposure, how tenants can minimize their exposure to mold growth, and health risks related to mold growth. However, the information must be approved by the Department of Health.               

Is my landlord liable for things I do? 

Liability is the financial responsibility for harm, including injuries, that result due to not exercising reasonable care. Reasonable care is a duty or obligation a person has to meet a specific standard of conduct recognized by the law. Generally, if you have a guest over or have invited some other third-party, such as a repair person, house sitter, housekeeper, caretaker, etc. to the rental property, and someone is injured because of your actions, your landlord is not liable. However, if the guest is injured because your landlord failed to disclose a defect on the property at the start of your lease, that then causes the injury, your landlord is liable for any injuries that result. Your landlord may be liable for injuries that occur if your landlord has multiple tenants living in the same building and one injures the other.   

What if I need to evict my tenant? The General Process. 

The process to evict a tenant can be long and complicated, so it is recommended that you get an attorney to help you. In Court, an eviction is referred to as an Unlawful Detainer. 

  1. Notice

First, you must serve the tenant a Notice of the eviction. The type of Notice and the time the tenant has to respond will depend on the reason for the eviction. There are certain requirements regarding how to serve a Notice to your tenant and what must be included in the Notice. 

  • Summons and Complaint

The next step is to file a Summons and Complaint with the Superior Court where the rental property is located and pay the filing fee. You must serve the tenant with copies and file a Declaration of Service. If you are unable to locate and serve the tenant, you must file an Affidavit of Due Diligence. At this point, the Court may authorize you serve the documents by posting them to the property and mailing copies by regular and certified mail to the tenant’s last known address.

  • Show Cause Hearing or Default Judgment

Once the tenant responds, the Court may schedule a hearing, known as the Show Cause Hearing. This allows the tenant a chance to fight the eviction. However, if the tenant does not respond, the Court may issue a Default Judgment, meaning the judge may rule in your favor because the tenant did not appear.

  • Writ of Restitution

Next, if your tenant still will not leave, you should file a Praecipe, meaning a formal request, for a Writ of Restitution, which is an Order from a Judge to have the tenant forcibly removed. You must coordinate the removal with the Sheriff’s Department. This is a multi-layered process, so it is best to seek the help of an attorney.    

What if I live in a mobile home? 

A mobile home is any factory-made residence built before June 15, 1976, and which was not built to the standards of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Code. Your landlord must serve you with a 14-day Notice if you do not pay rent or comply with other terms of your lease agreement. If you own the mobile home, but do not own the lot on which the home resides, your landlord may file a lien on the property. A lien is a charge against property made in order to collect a money owed. A lien continues to stay in effect even if you move the mobile home off of your landlord’s lot or sell the mobile home. Your landlord does not need to put the lien in writing or have it recorded in order for it to be created. Next, your landlord will need to commence a foreclosure on the mobile home in Court. 

Can I evict my tenant during the COVID-19 moratorium on evictions?

There are restrictions placed on landlords to evict tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the moratorium on evictions passed by Governor Jay Inslee on February 29, 2020. A moratorium is an authorized period of time during which payment of debt is delayed. Currently, the moratorium is extended to June 30, 2021. During this time, landlords may not evict tenants for not paying rent. Additionally, landlords may not apply or threaten tenants with late fees or with a Notice to Vacate, meaning to leave the residence for not paying rent. Finally, landlords cannot evict any person that is not on the lease but has moved in with a tenant during the pandemic on a temporary basis due to circumstances involving COVID-19. 

Nevertheless, landlords may still evict tenants for any other reason during the moratorium. For example, you may still evict your tenant if the tenant causes a health or safety concern to others or damages property belonging to others, including your rental property. You may also still evict a tenant if you plan to sell the rental property or move into it as your primary place of residence. If you do intend to evict your tenant during the COVID-19 pandemic for any of these reasons, you must provide a 60-day written Notice to your tenant. 

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