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I rented a house, signed the lease. When the lease came back after 4 months a section was added to the lease.

Sammamish, WA |

My wife and I did not intial or date next this section since it stated that we would return the house to it's original condition if we hung pictures. The lease we signed did not have this section. I have a copy. The owners mailed another copy with addtional changes made. I told them this is not the lease we signed. When I pointed this out, they hired an attorney. They sent me a 10 day notice to comply demanding I pay a water bill that occurred before I moved in. On the notice they changed the dates. I have a copy of the bill showing it was from prior months. Is the lease valid if they changed after we signed? How can I fight against their false claims?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

It would be a good idea to point out, in writing, that the water bill they want you to pay was from before you moved in. As to the lease changing after you signed it, it would be a good idea to make copies of both versions, and write to your landlord (or to their lawyer) and point out that a court is not going to enforce terms to which you did not agree,.

You'd need to sit down with a lawyer and have them go over your lease to tell you whether it is valid or not. Most contracts contain a clause that says if one term is held invalid that the rest of the contract is still enforceable.

It is unfortunately true that many landlords get their contracts off the internet or from their buddy the real estate agent. To the extent that any contract is inconsistent with WA state law, the RLTA says the statute trumps the contract. Read RCW 59 18 230.

The rules regarding returning the property in the same condition in which you received it are the deposit rules. See RCW 59 18 260, 270 and 280. Basically, you have to return the house in the same condition in which you received it, normal wear and tear excepted. This is why a walk-through checklist is so important, so that you and your landlord can agree about what the condition of the house was at the time you moved in.

This is true no matter what your contract says, and the popular phrase "tenant agrees that soilage is not normal wear and tear" probably does not create an enforceable exception in court. But handing the place over in the same condition isn't qualified by the "if you hang pictures" exception. You are supposed to give the place back in the same condition whether you hang pictures or not, but normal wear and tear is excepted whether that is in your contract or not.

Ryan Weatherstone's office is not that far from you, and he could probably offer you a valuable consultation if you call him. The landlord tenant relationship is not one of equal power. The RLTA is written by landlords for landlords, and judges are more likely to be landlords than tenants. So standing up for yourself and refusing to pay a water bill from before you got there, and pointing out that it is not reasonable for your landlord to change your contract after you signed it is all very well and good until you are in court defending an unlawful detainer.

But an eviction based on a 10-day based on these facts sounds dicey. Elizabeth Powell

Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.

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Posted

It would be a good idea to point out, in writing, that the water bill they want you to pay was from before you moved in. As to the lease changing after you signed it, it would be a good idea to make copies of both versions, and write to your landlord (or to their lawyer) and point out that a court is not going to enforce terms to which you did not agree,.

You'd need to sit down with a lawyer and have them go over your lease to tell you whether it is valid or not. Most contracts contain a clause that says if one term is held invalid that the rest of the contract is still enforceable.

It is unfortunately true that many landlords get their contracts off the internet or from their buddy the real estate agent. To the extent that any contract is inconsistent with WA state law, the RLTA says the statute trumps the contract. Read RCW 59 18 230.

The rules regarding returning the property in the same condition in which you received it are the deposit rules. See RCW 59 18 260, 270 and 280. Basically, you have to return the house in the same condition in which you received it, normal wear and tear excepted. This is why a walk-through checklist is so important, so that you and your landlord can agree about what the condition of the house was at the time you moved in.

This is true no matter what your contract says, and the popular phrase "tenant agrees that soilage is not normal wear and tear" probably does not create an enforceable exception in court. But handing the place over in the same condition isn't qualified by the "if you hang pictures" exception. You are supposed to give the place back in the same condition whether you hang pictures or not, but normal wear and tear is excepted whether that is in your contract or not.

Ryan Weatherstone's office is not that far from you, and he could probably offer you a valuable consultation if you call him. The landlord tenant relationship is not one of equal power. The RLTA is written by landlords for landlords, and judges are more likely to be landlords than tenants. So standing up for yourself and refusing to pay a water bill from before you got there, and pointing out that it is not reasonable for your landlord to change your contract after you signed it is all very well and good until you are in court defending an unlawful detainer.

But an eviction based on a 10-day based on these facts sounds dicey. Elizabeth Powell

Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.

Mark as helpful

2 lawyers agree

Posted

As Ms. Powell explained, most likely your entire lease is not invalidated just because they slipped in the new provision. Your lease is likely valid as it was originally signed (without the new provision). Since your landlord is now represented, communicate with the lawyers. Sometimes lawyers can be more reasonable than their clients because they know the extent of the law and are bound by certain ethical boundaries.

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Posted

Ms. Powell has provided some top notch adivce, I just want to reiterate a point that she made concerning the balance of power and fairness under the RLTA. The landlord does not lose much by claiming that you failed to live up to the contract; if he/she loses, they are just out a bit of money but they still have a roof over their head. If the tenant fights for what is right, a lawsuit is started, their name is forever on an eviction proceeding (win or lose) which effects future rental options, and if they lose the case they lose the roof over their head and have to pay the attorney fees of the landlord. Even if the tenant is in the right . . . they still lose.

Depending upon the situation, it may sometimes be advisable to pay the disputed amount and take the landlord to small claims court for reimbursement.

This answer is for informational purposes only and should not be construed to establish an attorney client relationship. Before taking any legal action, it is always advisable to discuss your specific situation with an attorney.

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