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Threat by tenant's attorney for entering abandoned property

Spokane, WA |
Filed under: Landlord-tenant

We received a letter (actually sent to our BANK and not our address,) from our tenant April 1 stating raw sewage will "always and forever" be spilling into the basement and that the house is "uninhabitable" and that she vacated the property March 11, 2013. We entered the property and took pictures of damage: garbage, stains, moving boxes, animal feces/urine, ripped blinds etc. No photos of her personal property/physical damage from tenant and pets only. Lease states we can enter in emergency of "life, health or property", her atty threatening to sue us for entering without her consent and taking photos. She has not vacated property - packing to move. No sewer problems noted and we had Plumbing Company verify. Do you see any problems with entering/photos of damage?

Attorney Answers 1


Ordinarily, a landlord must give notice before entering a leased property. However, one exception to that rule is when the premises have been abandoned. RCW 59.18.150(5) provides that "The landlord may enter the dwelling unit without consent of the tenant in case of emergency or abandonment."

If the letter that you received from the tenant stated that the property had been vacated (as opposed to was going to be vacated), then you would appear to be well within your rights, at least to verify the abandonment.

In the alternative, the tenant gave you notice of a dangerous condition on the property. Under RCW 59.18.070, that required you to commence remedial action within either 24 or 72 hours. A tenant cannot reasonably give you notice of a problem at the property and then complain when you show up to fix it.

I suggest that you send the tenant's lawyer a copy of the tenant's letter along with the two RCW citations. Unless there is more to your story, that should answer the attorney's a concerns.

This is legal information and not legal advice. The final answer to your question will depend on more facts than you can include in your question and some that you probably would not think to include. Treat this as a starting point, not the answer.

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