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A project of Be:Seattle

“Power concedes nothing


without a demand. It never
did and it never will.”
-Frederick Douglass
Exercise Your Right to
Organize.
It is 100% legal for renters to form a tenant union.

You can:

➔ Pass out/post flyers to your neighbors & in


common areas, create connection with your
neighbors and invite them to get involved

➔ Hold meetings that are unattended by


management or agents of the landlord in the
building

If the landlord takes any undue negative action


against a tenant who has participated in one of these
organizing activities, it is automatically assumed to be
retaliation and is illegal.
Protections won
through organizing
Carl Haglund Law

A landlord cannot increase housing costs for


any housing unit that does not meet the
minimum habitability standards of the
Residential Rental Inspection Program.

➔ Tenants organized their building,


➔ They found allies & contacted the media,
➔ Then took the fight to City Hall & won a
new right for all of us!
Moving in
BEST PRACTICES
➔ Read the lines before you sign

➔ Put it in writing, get it in writing


Send via certified mail

➔ Keep copies of everything

➔ Document, document, document


Pictures when moving in/out, keep
track of damages, ask for receipts

➔ Prioritize paying rent and do not


withhold

➔ Landlords can only enforce rules


in lease
Screening
➔ Criteria must be clearly stated in writing, applied equally, and cannot result in
discrimination against protected groups

➔ Landlords must state in writing what information will be assessed and what could
result in denial

➔ Cost: can only be charged the actual cost (no profit can be made)

➔ If a landlord rejects you, they are legally required to give you written notice that
explains why

➔ Fair Chance Housing Ordinance blocks screening of most past criminal convictions
Protected classes
It is ILLEGAL for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on:

➔ Race ➔ Marital status ➔ Age


➔ Color ➔ Sexual orientation ➔ Use of service

+ +
➔ National origin ➔ Gender identity animal
➔ Religion ➔ Sex ➔ Ancestry
➔ Sex ➔ Veteran/military ➔ Political ideology*
➔ Disability status ➔ Criminal
➔ Familial status ➔ Source of Income Conviction*

Everywhere in the US In Washington State In Seattle* & King County


Leases
Fixed-term Month-to-month
➔ Specific and finite amount of of time ➔ Tenants rent for an indefinite amount of
time
➔ May become month to month or renew
following the the initial term ➔ Requires 20 days’ notice to terminate (just
cause exception)
➔ Anything longer than 1 year must be
notarized ➔ Rent can be raised with proper notice
◆ Worth trying if you want to stay in place ➔ Just Cause Eviction Protections
long-term
Deposits & fees
Deposit:
➔ Money collected at the beginning of your tenancy to ensure against damages at the
end of your tenancy. Always refundable.
To collect a deposit, a landlord must provide:

◆ a receipt for each deposit

◆ a written rental agreement

◆ a checklist or statement describing the rental unit’s condition

◆ a statement that says the name and address of the bank or escrow company where the deposit
is held
Fee:
➔ Non-refundable (and must be designated as such)
In Seattle,
➔ Security deposit + move-in fees = or < 1st full
month’s rent

➔ Pet deposits = or < 25% of 1st full month’s rent


(and service animals exempt)

➔ Total fees = or < 10% of 1st full month’s rent

➔ Payment plan required:


6+ month lease:

◆ 6 consecutive and equal payments

30 days - 6 month lease:

◆ 4 consecutive and equal payments

Month to month:

◆ 2 equal installments (except for pet deposits → 3 equal


monthly installments)
During your tenancy
Tenant duties
➔ Pay rent and any utility bills agreed upon

➔ Follow city, county and state regulations

➔ Keep the unit clean and sanitary

➔ Dispose of garbage properly

➔ Pay for spraying of any infestations (pests) you caused

➔ Properly use plumbing, electrical and heating systems

➔ Restore the unit to the same condition as when you moved in, except for normal wear
and tear
Repairs
➔ Landlord must make repairs unless there is damage that you or a guest caused
(including accidental damage)

The process:

➔ Document the need for a repair


◆ Best practice: certified mail
➔ Notify the landlord with a written repair request letter and explain the need
◆ Best practice: include a good faith estimate and keep a copy
➔ Wait the appropriate time frame (reasonable time)
◆ `Hazardous to life, no heat, water, or electricity - 24 hours
◆ Deprives use of major appliance - 72 hours
◆ All other situations - 10 days
What if repairs aren’t getting done?
You can:
➔ Negotiate with your landlord
➔ Seek mediation
➔ Call code enforcement
➔ Repair and deduct:
◆ Must provide landlord w/ estimates; maximum 2 months of rent
➔ Litigate or arbitrate
◆ Seek compensation for unmade repairs, reduced rental value
➔ Break your lease and move
◆ Requires substantial habitability issues and can have costly consequences
Code Enforcement
What is it? A city agency that assists in making sure
landlords keep rentals up to code

➔ Most Cities have departments that deal with


code compliance through complaint-generated
systems

Seattle
Department of Construction & Inspections

206-615-0808
Privacy
Your apartment is your home, and you can refuse entry if your landlord has not provided the required notice or
if the entry is intended to harass you.

➔ You cannot refuse the landlord’s entry to your unit to repair, improve/service the unit, or if there’s an
emergency.

Proper notice:

➔ 48 hours written notice to inspect the property or do agreed upon repairs


◆ Date
◆ Time
◆ Phone number
◆ Written Signature

➔ 24 hours written notice to show the apartment

If the LL violates your right to privacy, a tenant can write a written letter that documents when landlord
violated privacy. If LL violates privacy again, tenant can sue for $100 every time in small claims court.
Rule/Rent Changes
Fixed-term
➔ Rent and all rules cannot change
No limit
except by written mutual agreement.
to rent
Month-to-month
➔ Can receive rent increases and rule changes with a 30 day increases
written notice Rent stabilization
(tying rent
➔ 60 days notice is required in writing for rent increase of 10% or increases to
more within a rolling 12 month period inflation) is banned
in the state of
➔ Will transition to 60 days across the board this summer Washington.
➔ Current Council legislation could extend all increases
notice to 180 days
Month-to-month rent increase timeline

Notice received New rent takes effect


April 15th June 1st

April May

Last month w/ current rent begins


May 1st
Utilities
READ LEASE CAREFULLY

➔ Know who is responsible for what charges (water, sewer, garbage, electric)

➔ Ensure that bill is in your name if you are paying directly to the utility provider

➔ Ensure that no charges on utility bills are carried over from a prior tenant

➔ Your landlord cannot cut-off utilities to get you to move

➔ Seattle’s Utility Discount Program (UDP)

◆ Available for income-qualified residential households

◆ 60% discount on Seattle City Light and 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities
Ownership change or condo conversion
➔ The sale of a property does not automatically end a tenancy
◆ Deposits transfers with ownership
➔ Required Notice:
◆ New owner’s name and address must be given to tenants via certified mail or a
posting at the property
➔ Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance - provides adequate time to search for new
housing and relocation assistance to low income households
◆ Tenant must get a minimum of 90-days notice if housing is scheduled to be torn
down, undergo substantial renovation, have use changed, or have certain
restrictions removed
◆ Applies to households making under 50% AMI
● Current assistance is ~$3,800 (paid by landlord & property sales taxes)
Landlord Retaliation
➔ Retaliation against tenants who assert their rights is prohibited.

◆ If a landlord takes a negative action within 90 days of a tenant asserting their


rights, a court may find that a they illegally retaliated

➔ Be wary of retaliation by the landlord when asserting your rights.

◆ Landlords may be put on guard if you immediately put your exchanges in writing,
so it can be a good idea to ramp up to that.

➔ Document EVERYTHING
Moving out
Vacating
Fixed-term Landlord Action
➔ If you vacate before the end of your ➔ Seattle landlords must give a “just cause”
lease, you may be liable for: reason for ending the tenancy
◆ Rent until the lease ends; or, ➔ Eviction notice period to extend to 14 days
◆ Rent until the unit is re-rented + starting this summer
cost associated with re-renting
Read your lease carefully
◆ Other penalties There are often additional clauses and fees
associated with early termination.
Month-to-month
➔ Give 20-day written notice prior to the Take pictures of the unit after you have removed
end of the rental period all of your belongings and cleaned.
Get your deposit back
Things to remember:

➔ Provide landlord with a forwarding address!

➔ Wait 21 days from the date you move

➔ Landlord must provide letter and itemized statement explaining the reasons that any or
all of the deposit is being withheld

➔ Can withhold for damages beyond “normal wear and tear,” but must sent itemized list
within 21 days

➔ Nothing in 21 days? You have a right to your full deposit!


◆ Demand for Return of Deposit & Small Claims
Take action
Organize your building!
Did you know?

➔ You have the right. You deserve to live in a safe


habitable home and you deserve to demand
that you are treated fairly.

Small groups can make big impacts. We have worked


with tenants to demand better treatment from
management, to make unmade repairs, and to end
harassment.

What can you do?

➔ Let us know and we can help you set up your


tenant association.

➔ Plan mobilizations, events, or trainings at your


building.

➔ Document your issues & share them with other


tenants, media, and City Hall.
Grow the movement
citywide!
Did you know?

Renters make up 52% of Seattle households.

➔ Yet, many bad landlords feel free to mistreat,


harass, or ignore tenants.
➔ Many of our rental laws were written with help
from landlord lobbyists.

What can you do?

➔ Help us bring tenant rights training to other


neighborhoods.

➔ Mobilize other renters. Get them involved.

➔ Share your organizing experiences with other


tenants & empower them to fight.
Bring the fight to City
Hall!
Now you know:

➔ Tenant voices are important, but lacking at City


Hall.
➔ When we organize and fight together, tenants
win big victories.

What can you do?

➔ Report code violations + call/email


Councilmembers en masse.

➔ Show up at Seattle Renters Commission


Meetings. (1st Mondays @ 6pm, City Hall)

➔ Mobilize around new renter protections!


Thank you.
Information provided by
Be:Seattle
Presentation created by
Be:Seattle
Tenant Law Center
Tenants Union of Washington State
Tenant Rights Bootcamp 2018
More info: admin@beseattle.com

Sources: Revised Code of Washington, Seattle Municipal Code, washingtonlawhelp.org, tenantsunion.org