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What are tenant rights regarding breaking a lease in Washington state?

Vancouver, WA |

We broke our 1 year lease on a rental property before moving in. Our contract says we are responsible for rent for the full year. We thought Washington law stated that we are only responsible for rent until the landlord re-rents the unit, as long as the landlord is advertising adequately, and any advertising costs. Is this true? If so, is simply a sign in the yard considered "adequate" advertising? Also, are we entitled to our full security deposit back after the property is re-rented?

We did do the walk through checklist. The conditions of the property were good. Our situation changed, so less than a week after doing the walk through we told the landlord we would not be moving in and asked LL to rent it to someone else. We want to pay our fair share, but are concerned because LL won't advertise in any way other than a sign in the yard. We think it would be rented by now if LL would advertise on Craigslist. We still have keys and nothing in writing, just texting and phone conversations.

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Attorney answers 1


If you never moved in, it is hard to say that you broke the lease. Landlords can use whatever contract they find on line, but it has to be consistent with the RLTA or it isn't enforceable. See RCW 59 18 230. You are correct that WA courts will not allow a landlord to endlessly claim he is owed rent, because he has a duty to mitigate his damages and get a new tenant. The best measure of effective advertising is a new tenant. And if you never moved in, it is tough to say that you owe him *any* rent. If he did not do a walk through checklist detailing the conditions of the property at the time you were preparing to move in, then he can't take a deposit. And before he took it, he had to clearly state he would not return it if you did not move in.

Strongly recommend that you review the deposit statutes at RCW 59 18 260, 270 and 280, see if you can articulate WHY you decided not to move in, and then, if the amount he took from you is less than $5,000.00, go to District Court and file a small claims action. This is the fastest way to get your money back, and the judges that hear small claims cases know what they are doing for the most part. And you can ask for TWICE your deposit.

I have two legal guides on this subject linked to my profile. Elizabeth Powell

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