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WA State -- Can rental property owner seeks damages in excess of deposit, if so how does owner distribute cost among tenants.

Bellingham, WA |

-- Haven't lived in property for 8 months, was contacted saying I owed 13,000 collectively as all tenants under owners tenancy.
-- Trying to allocate cost to individuals and "negotiate" among those willing to talk.
-- Threatening to send total to collections.
-- Owner decided to distribute cost based on length of tenancy and others emails.
-- Can a lawyer help my situation to minimize cost, if so how much on average?
-- Bill is 13,000 and 8 names are listed I have been "given" 3,500 of this total based on his justification of tenancy.
-- **Does 14 day return of deposit or notification why apply? The damages to the home are clearly in excess of deposit, but he didn't contact me for 8 months, and failed to contact the last tenants withing 14 days.

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Attorney answers 2


The 14 day notification requirement is a great affirmative defense, but you need to read it carefully and then notice that the last sentence of RCW 59 18 280 says (basically) no matter what the landlord can sue the tenant for damage done to the property by the tenant during the tenancy. This is a huge loophole. Landlords have better legislators.

The owner is attempting to assert "joint and several" liability. The contract likely says that is the case. This is a defensible position. The landlord's problem is that you had no notice for 8 months that there was anything wrong.

He can send you to collections. You have to respond as to why you do not owe the debt and then the collections agency has to report accurately that the debt alleged is disputed.

The real danger is that the landlord will lawyer up and you *could be* responsible for the landlord's attorney fees. That could be a lot more than $13K, hard to tell.

Can a lawyer help you with this? Yes. If you have been served with a summons and complaint, that is a very good time to locate and retain an attorney. Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.


All tenants are jointly liable to the landlord for all damages caused during the lease, regardless of who lived there or who caused them. The landlord is also not limited by the amount of the deposit. You can sue your fellow tenants for "their share" based on any formal or informal agreements you had with each other, but the landlord can still collect the money from whomever he chooses.

You may be able to negotiate a settlement with the landlord to avoid him suing you or hiring a collection agency to sue you, but your fellow tenants can still sue you for any damage they allege is "your share."

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