Presentation on theme: "Ten Things a Renter in WA State Should Know Leona Bratz Housing Justice Project Attorney Snohomish County Legal Services"— Presentation transcript:
Ten Things a Renter in WA State Should Know Leona Bratz Housing Justice Project Attorney Snohomish County Legal Services
Housing Justice Project A homelessness prevention program that provides free legal services to qualified low-income tenants facing eviction in Snohomish County Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, 10 am – noon, at Snohomish County Courthouse
Preliminary information first… TENANCIES Created when someone rents a “dwelling unit” Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) governs landlord/tenant relationships Agreement could be verbal or written 2 BASIC TYPES OF TENANCIES Term Lease Month to Month Lease
Eviction Process ILLEGAL FOR LANDLORD TO EVICT A TENANT ON HIS/HER OWN LANDLORD IS SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE LAW AND OBTAIN A COURT ORDER TO EVICT DOESN’T MEAN LANDLORDS ALWAYS FOLLOW THE LAW!
Ten Things a Renter in WA State Should Know …
True or False? You are a first time renter. You signed a lease right after graduation but did not read it carefully. You now want out of the lease because you have a much better rental opportunity with some friends. The penalty provisions in the lease do not apply to you because you are only 18 years old and you were not aware of the law or the penalties.
10. LEARN ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS AS A TENANT BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT RENTING! Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for a tenant.
What do you owe? You and your roommate signed a one year lease. Two months into your lease, your roommate tells you he is going to move to Hawaii and he leaves the day rent is due without paying his half of the rent. You pay your half of rent to your landlord. Your landlord demands the full amount of rent from you. What do you owe your landlord?
9. CAREFULLY CHOOSE RESPONSIBLE ROOMMATES. JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY YOUR ROOMMATE COULD RUIN YOUR RENTAL RECORD OR CREDIT
8. RESEARCH POTENTIAL RENTAL UNITS AND SURROUNDING AREAS.
7. READ YOUR LEASE BEFORE YOU SIGN IT EVEN IF IT SEEMS LONG AND BORING.
True or False? You have paid your rent on time for 6 months in a row. Unfortunately, you had a medical emergency and could not work. You don’t have the money for rent now but you can catch up in a few months. Because it was a situation beyond your control, your landlord is obligated to work with you on a payment plan for your rent.
6. MAKE SURE YOU CAN AFFORD THE RENT EACH MONTH AFTER CONSIDERING ALL OF YOUR BILLS.
Can your landlord do this? You have been a great tenant and you have a good rental reputation. When you were out of town for a night, your roommate had friends over and they had an all-night party. One of your roommate’s friends damaged items in the lobby of your apartment building. The very next morning, your landlord served you and your roommate with a 10 day notice to pay or vacate for the damage done.
5. COMPLY WITH YOUR LEASE. ENSURE THAT YOUR ROOMMATES ALSO COMPLY AND GUESTS BEHAVE.
ILLEGAL DRUGS & ACTIVITIES CAN MAKE YOU HOMELESS.
Who will the Judge believe? You’ve been paying your rent on time but it bothers you that your landlord will only accept cash and won’t give receipts. It also bothers you that the landlord won’t repair problems in the unit. You give your landlord a written notice asking for repairs to finally be made. Your landlord immediately gives you a 3 day notice to pay rent or vacate, alleging that you haven’t paid rent for 3 months. You refuse to pay because you did pay rent and you won’t allow your landlord to lie and collect double rent. He sues you for past due rent and you end up in court.
4. PROTECT YOURSELF WITH DOCUMENTATION: Receipts, Itemizations, Photos, Copies of Repair Requests, etc.
3. BE A GOOD TENANT AS A GOOD REFERENCE FROM YOUR LANDLORD CAN BE VERY VALUABLE.
BAD TENANTS CAN BE SUED FOR MUCH MORE THAN RENT AND DAMAGE DEPOSITS.
Can the tenant legally withhold her rent? An elderly, low income tenant lives in an apartment complex where there are a lot of problems. All of the units have mold, some of the units have bedbugs or rats, and most of the units have a number of other problems. The elderly tenant has mold and bedbugs in her unit, as well as plumbing problems which result in sewage occasionally coming out of her bathtub faucet. She asked her landlord many times to repair the problems in her unit and he has ignored her. She is frustrated and feels it is only fair for her to withhold rent until the landlord repairs the problems he has known about for months.
2. DO NOT WITHHOLD RENT, EVEN IF CONDITIONS ARE TERRIBLE, OR YOU WILL BE SERVED A 3 DAY PAY RENT OR VACATE EVICTION NOTICE.
1. TAKE ALL NOTICES SERIOUSLY AND RESPOND QUICKLY AS THEY ARE THE STARTING POINT FOR THE EVICTION PROCESS. 3 DAY NOTICE TO PAY RENT OR VACATE 10 DAY NOTICE TO COMPLY WITH THE LEASE OR VACATE 20 DAY NOTICE TO TERMINATE THE TENANCY
How will the Judge rule? You and your roommate are always late in paying your rent. Every month for the past 8 months, your landlord either accepts the late rent or he posts 3 day pay rent or vacate notices on your door, but allows you to pay within 1-2 weeks of the notice. One day, you are served with an eviction summons and complaint. You plan to tell the judge that the case should be thrown out because your landlord has always allowed you to pay late and shouldn’t be able to complain about it now.
ONCE THE NOTICE PERIOD EXPIRES, A LANDLORD CAN FILE AN EVICTION LAWSUIT. **Don’t ever ask a landlord or the landlord’s attorney to file the lawsuit if it is unfiled.**
An eviction record is a huge factor in homelessness. Immediately after an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit is filed with the Clerk’s Office, the eviction becomes part of a person’s permanent public record.
“Filed” evictions are used by a number of landlords/screening companies as an automatic disqualifier for many tenants in the rental application process.
ONCE AN EVICTION IS FILED, THE CHANCES OF BECOMING HOMELESS INCREASES.
YOUR RENTAL REPUTATION STARTS WITH YOUR FIRST TENANCY AND WILL BE WITH YOU INDEFINITELY. START OFF WELL & GOOD LUCK! ASK FOR GUIDANCE AND/OR HELP FROM: PARENTS, GUARDIANS, AND OTHER ADULTS YOU TRUST TENANT AGENCIES (SOLID GROUND AND TENANTS UNION) LEGAL AID AGENCIES (CLEAR AND HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT)
Other Help for Tenants There is help in the community if emergency assistance or shelter is needed. Contact: 211 (Resource hotline) Volunteers of America Churches, etc.