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Do I have legal grounds to break my apartment lease?

Kirkland, WA |

I just moved into my first apartment last week. Turns out it has fleas. Management does not seem very concerned and will not get it treated for another 4 days. I am not even fully moved in and already having to stay elsewhere because I can't take the bites anymore. Can I break my lease? Or at least get some kind of compensation for the days I am out because of this?

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Attorney answers 2


The rule is RCW 59.18.060 section 4. The land lord has to exterminate and you have to give notice in writing of the issue. The timing has to be reasonable. Bug bombs are cheap and fast I don't see why there is a delay of days, should be hours.
Good Luck

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Your landlord has an obligation to provide you with habitable housing. In exchange for rent, you are supposed to be living without infestations of any kind. You have to give written notice to the landlord that the infestation is occurring and tell them to fix it, and they are entitled to ten days in which to "commence repairs or maintenance". See RCW 59 18 060 for the landlord's obligations, and 070 for the time allowed for repairs.

If they don't make a solid effort to get the fleas under control, read RCW 59 18 090. The thing to remember is that YOU are not in breach, your landlord is in breach. When the other party breaches, your duty is to mitigate your damages. Never take legal advice from your landlord, because in their mind they want to make you feel as though you are wrong just because you would like to have a flea-free apartment. You are paying for a flea-free apartment. Either hold them to it, or move out. Don't withhold rent, that will simply get you evicted. But if you refuse to be treated badly, then they can't be all nonchalant about the fleas.

There are good landlords out there who strive to make their property a pleasant place to live. You are paying a significant portion of your monthly income for rent. Be sure your landlord deserves it. But under WA law, there is no notice until its in writing. So, write.

Elizabeth Powell

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