Late one night I had heard several large thuds and scratches coming from inside the walls. I had caught it on tape, the noises coming from the walls, and gave it to my landlord to take action on this pest issue. She called a guy to place 5-6 packets of what I assumed to be rat poison in different spots. The guy had told me that the previous tenants had problems with rats, so it seems like she hasn't really done much to try to solve this issue.
The smell had gone away for a bit afterwards, but it has returned. I will start messaging her throughout this month to keep reminding her, but I'm curious if she ignores my requests (shes notoriously terrible with communication) can I deny payment till this is resolved? Some nights when we have the heaters on it blasts the smell of rat into my room, and there is literally a rat poop in the vent...
Moreover, is it possible to warn future tenants about her negligence? I wonder if it is slander, because it would hurt her financially, but these are degrading living conditions and I would want future buyers to know what they're getting into.
You absolutely may NOT withhold rent because of your concern that there may be a pest problem or because the house smells bad.
The Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) provides that a landlord is responsible for pest control. If you bring the defect to the attention of your landlord and no action is undertaken to correct it in the appropriate amount of time you have the right to (a) terminate the lease and move out; (b) obtain an estimate to have it fixed by a professional and deduct the cost of the repair from the lease; (c) have a court determined what the diminished value of the property is with the defect; and (d) ask the city or other government official to determine the house is uninhabitable in which case you pay the rent into an escrow until the court determines the landlord has fixed the problem. None of these options involves living at the property for free.
If you withhold rent you run the risk of being evicted. Even if a judge agrees that perhaps it was appropriate to withhold the rent there will be a record that that the landlord tried to evict you. I recommend you have an expert inspect to determine if the smell is related to the prior pest issue. If it is, send the report to the landlord along with an estimate to have it repaired and give notice that you will have the work completed and deduct the amount of the repair from the rent.
The procedure I suggest can be found at RCW 59.18.100. It is not difficult to follow, but if you have questions I recommend that you get a lawyer to assist.
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