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How does WA State define habitability in landlord-tenant agreements? And what is the best way for a tenant to enforce standards?

Seattle, WA |

My sister and I have lived in an apartment near Greenlake for a few years. After heavy rains occurred over the weekend, we woke up on Monday to find our living room flooded. Apparently a near by drainage system collecting rain had clogged and began flooding. The water eventually found its way into our basement-leval aparment.....This is the second time this has happend and each time the landlord makes minimal effort to fix or address the issue. More specically, the landlord sends someone with a shop-vac and fan to remove some water. They then cut patches of carpet out and replace them with newer patches of carpet.....As you can imagine, this causes a lot of moisture and mildew in the apartment - not to mention it can smell pretty awful...How do we address this with our landlord ?? Thanks!!

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Attorney answers 2


The following publication talks about your rights regarding mold & indoor air quality, and how to properly pursue repairs from your landlord. Since the law may not be perfectly clear about what is required, it also talks about alternative remedies such as getting an inspection from the city and requesting mediation with your landlord:


The first test of habitability is whether the property meets or exceeds codes, ordinances, statutes that could apply. Google Foisy v Wyman, that is a 1972 case but it is still the gold standard on habitability,.

If you live in a basement that floods, the first thing to do is WRITE to your landlord and tell him so. Calls do not count and they are useless. You may want to write and say, "as I have been telling you by phone for three weeks, this apartment flooded again on (DATE). Please fix or repair in the time allowed by the RLTA".

Then you get that letter to your landlord. Mail, hand delivery, whatever you can do. If he blows you off, contact Code Enforcement for Seattle (look on line) and ask them to inspect. They will.

The RLTA does not mention mold, but habitability includes*NOT* being inundated by water. See RCW 59 18 115 (3). If the City does not know you are living in a basement, they are going to be unhappy with your landlord. Did he get planning permission and permits?

I have written extensively on tenant relocation remedies here. I have a Legal Guide, attached to my profile on the subject. In Seattle, the remedy includes two month's rent PLUS the state three month's rent or $2K, whichever is more, plus all your deposit and any pre-paid rent plus your costs of moving and all your reasonable attorney fees in cash or certified funds within seven days. Not too shabby to get you relocated if necessary.

Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

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