Problem with a verbal rental agreement.

My husband is currently renting a room in a home in Seattle, WA with two other tenants. One of the tenants placed an ad on Craigslist looking for another roommate and my husband responded. The tenant and my husband came to a verbal agreement that it would be a very short term, month to month deal. We paid a $333.33 deposit (May 1st) and were told it was 100% refundable. The owner (through the tenant) is now saying my husband must leave by the end of June and he will only be refunding $100 of the deposit "for his trouble". Did we just lose $233.33 or is the verbal agreement with the tenant enough? We also paid $160 to refill the oil for the furnace and were told we may get that back from the future tenant. If there is anything we can do, should we try and get some of that back as well?

Seattle, WA -

Attorney Answers (1)

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Landlord / Tenant Lawyer - Tacoma, WA
Answered

The reason that you and your husband are going to recover the deposit is that in WA, in order to take a deposit, the rental agreement has to be in writing and the terms of the deposit return have to be memorialized. See RCW 59 18 260.

The landlord (or the head tenant if you will) should never have taken a deposit in the first place, that was unlawful. The furnace fuel you paid is an entirely different problem. You are going to have to figure out what is a reasonable rebate on your husband's contribution to the fuel. That may be a lost cause.

Anyway, don't take legal advice from the landlord or the head tenant as neither apparently has ever read the relevant statutes. Hope this helps - Elizabeth Powell

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