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Rental Home without Certificate of Occupancy

Washington |

I entered into a 1 year lease in October 2007 for a 3 bedroom rental house. The home is a new construction home and we would be the first to live in it. Our lease was to commence on Oct. 1 but due to contractor issues and failed inspections, our landlord stated we could not move in until Oct. 15. We moved with the verbal agreement from the landlord that she would prorate the rent for October to reflect actual move in date. She stated she would redo the lease and then went out of town. We contacted her numerous times over the next month with regards to this matter as well as other matters going on within the new house but with no reply. In December 2007 we were notified by the Kitsap County Housing Developement Office that the said rental did not have a certificate of occupancy issued. We explained that we were the tenants not the owners but would pass on the information to them. They additionally stated that they would notify them by mail as they previously had but had gotten no response. We contacted our landlords again and this time they called us back. They stated that they had no knowledge of this issue and that they would get back with us. Unsure of what to do and uneasy with our relationship with our landlords due to lack of communications, we consulted with Navy Legal (we are active duty military). Navy legal advised us to move out. They stated that we could breach our lease because upon entering into the lease, the house did not have certificate of occupancy and therefore the lease becomes unbinding. Navy legal sent the landlords a letter accordingly stating such facts. We have moved out and into Navy housing, at our own costs and our landlords have now produced a certificate of occupancy but it is dated January 18, 2008. They now want to hold us to the remainder of our 1 year lease -- or until they can find someone else to rent the house. Any advice on what to do?

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Attorney answers 1


Start by reading RCW 59.18.085. Your landlord can threaten you, but your JAG information is more accurate. WA provides protection for tenants, in that if there is some compelling reason why you cannot occupy the house (such as the County won't let you) then you behaved reasonably.

There is another statute on quitting the tenancy and being released from the lease, same title and chapter, but I don't have the section number handy.

They can't get you to pay rent for a tenancy when the County won't let you live there. They can't hold you to the lease. If they decide to sue you for unpaid rent, please don't hesitate to call if you want help with your defense.

Elizabeth Powell

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