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Resources

For our Landlord clients, our Forms page will provide commonly used forms along with explanations of how to use them.

For our Tenant clients, this page will provide information, options, references, and referrals.  As we do not offer free tenant consultations, if you have a straight forward matter, we encourage you to explore all free informational and pro bono references and referrals prior to engaging our services.

If you have a complex case, time sensitive situation, and prefer to speak to a private attorney regarding your rights, please contact us to schedule a paid consultation.

 

 Tenant Resources

For simple legal scenarios or to understand your rights as a tenant, there are numerous free and pro bono resources available to you.  We encourage potential clients to first explore these options prior to engaging our firm.  This page is set up to show all third party resources first with our triage guide following that.  Our sincerest hope is that you are able to utilize these free and pro bono resources to resolve your situation.

Scroll down for our tenant triage guide

 

Third Party Informational Resources (to explain your rights & remedies)

These two websites provide answers to frequently asked questions about tenant rights ranging from how to request repairs to how to respond to an eviction complaint.

Emergency Assistance & Resources

Sometimes you are facing the prospect of homelessness due to the inability to pay your rent or because you have recently been evicted.  Start here to see if there may be help for you.

Housing Justice Project (free help to help you fight in court, in person first come first serve program)

This is perhaps the very best resource if you are facing an eviction and simply need assistance getting some extra time to vacate.  Housing Justice Project will help you in your hearing but is not chartered for complex litigation, counter claims, or significant legal work.

Moderate Means Program

Moderate means is a low bono option when pro bono representation is not available.  Depending upon your budget and issues, this might be a viable choice.

 

Washington Property Law’s Tenant Triage Guide

Disclaimer– This triage guide is not designed to be legal advice, substitute for legal advice, and you should seek legal advice regarding your legal needs.  What this triage guide is designed to do is to recommend the best path to free help and if that fails when it is best to contact us.

Application discrimination:  This can often be difficult to prove and often requires a disparate impact analysis.  This type of litigation is expensive and in our opinion best done by a government agency, large pro bono agency, or larger class action law firm.

Recommendation: Contact housing justice project, Northwest Justice Project, WA Attorney General Consumer Protection Division to start.

Breaking Your Lease: In general, you can obtain all the advice you need without consulting our firm either online for free or via pro bono resources.  For complex situations, times when you want a private attorney review to double check free advice, or if the landlord will not comply with your requests, we offer paid consultations.

Recommendation: Go to Washington Law Help or Tenants Union website or in person to housing justice project first.  In most instances, you or a pro bono attorney will write a letter to your landlord and that will resolve the situation.  If it does not or if you prefer private representation, call us.

Cash for Keys: In general, you are asking for extra time or money in this scenario.  This is something you or a pro bono attorney can handle.  If the cash for keys is predicated upon a significant legal defense, legal harm, and/or bodily harm, that is when you want to contact us to ensure you do not waive important rights or claims.

Recommendation: For normal situations where you need time/cash, self negotiate or contact Housing Justice Project.  If there are significant claims, damages, or rights on the line, contact us.

Code Violations & Habitability Issues:  To prevail or obtain relocation on this type of case, you need to follow a process.  That process is to 1) notify your landlord of the problems/violations in writing (send certified to prove you mailed it as well as email/fax, 2) give your landlord a chance to fix the issue, 3) if landlord fails to fix, go to the city and request an inspection, 4) if the landlord still does not comply/fix, call us or another firm/organization to protect your rights.

Recommendation: Start with housing justice project or WA Legal Help to create the initial letter.  Follow the process.  Call us if the landlord does not fix or comply.  In most instances, the landlord will fix or comply and you will not need our assistance and you will save money doing the initial dispute on your own.  If not, we can sue.

Collection & Deposit Return:  If a landlord fails to follow the rules under RCW 59.18.280, either as to timeline, as to itemization, or is requesting unreasonable amounts, the best solution is to sue in most instances.  If you sue and prevail, you may be entitled to 2 x your deposit and attorney fees.

Recommendation: This is one of the rare situations where we recommend to go straight to litigation.  We generally offer contingency + costs representation.

Discrimination:  This can often be difficult to prove and often requires a disparate impact analysis.  This type of litigation is expensive and in our opinion best done by a government agency, large pro bono agency, or larger class action law firm.

Recommendation: Contact housing justice project, Northwest Justice Project, WA Attorney General Consumer Protection Division to start.

Domestic Violence, Criminal Activity, Gang Activity (RCW 59.18.580):  Generally this situation is resolved with a letter to your landlord.  Once you make your complaint in writing, most landlords will comply with the law.  If not, we can sue them.

Recommendation: Go to WA Law Help or Housing Justice Project to help prepare a letter to your landlord, send certified as well as by fax and email.  If no resolution, call us.

Ejectment Action Defense:  Ejectments are generally messy and can sometimes be dangerous.  In most instances you are dealing with family or friends and the possibility of domestic violence, battery, and allegations of theft or violations of law are likely.  Litigating or defending these type of cases is also expensive.  Even if the law favors you, generally, we advise you to move out if it is possible.

Recommendation: We recommend leaving the situation as fast as you are able.  If you are unable or unwilling to, head to Housing Justice Project to see how they can help.   Our firm should be your last resort due to risk and the high costs of this type of litigation.

Eviction and Unlawful Detainer Defense: If you are facing a non-payment situation, free and bono options are best as generally all you can do is negotiate on a move out date or request an accommodation.  If it is more complex private representation is likely best as we can defend on the merits, counter claims potentially, and fall back to bankruptcy court if necessary.

Recommendation:  Generally always go to Housing Justice Project to start.  If its simple, they will tell you.  If its above their head or charter, they will also tell you.  If you know your situation is complex and/or believe a private attorney from the start is the better approach, call us.

Habitability Issues: see code violations.

Harassment: If based on protected class, see Discrimination.  If based on non-protected class reasons, this is a very case by case analysis on your options.  Harassment usually requires a great deal of evidence and can be costly to litigate so you need to make sure your evidence is strong and ability to recover

Recommendation: For protected class, see Discrimination.  For non-protected class, we recommend starting at Housing Justice Project to see what your options are.  If the harassment is particularly egregious, you may just want to call us to start.

HOA/COA/Co-Op Issues:  Usually these issues involve repairs to the unit or common area or with following the CC&R’s.  In general if you comply with the CC&R’s or the 10 day warning to comply you will be fine.  If it involves repairs, your landlord may be required to give you accommodations or release you from your lease.

Recommendation: Start with Housing Justice Project or WA Legal Help as in most instances a letter or compliance will solve the situation.

HUD/ Section 8/ Public Housing Issues:  Usually you want to start off with your case worker and use an informal conference to try to resolve issues.  If that fails, Housing Justice Project and/or Columbia Legal Services are well suited to assist.  We generally do not recommend our services on these issues due to cost-benefit analysis.

Recommendation: Start with Housing Justice Project.

Insurance (Renters) & Bad Faith Denial:  If your renters insurance is not willing to cover a claim, skip the pro bono’s, call us.  It will require either a strongly worded demand or a bad faith insurance denial claim.

Recommendation: Call us or an equivalent firm that handles bad faith insurance denial claims

Mold:  To prevail on a mold claim, you are going to need to have a certified mold tester verify its presence and a Doctor to find that the mold caused the conditions you are dealing with.  If you have not yet developed symptoms, you need to notify your landlord to fix or possibly look at terminating your lease.

Recommendation: If you have not yet developed medical conditions, go to Housing Justice Project to request mold redediation and/or review lease break options.  If you suspect you are experiencing a medical condition caused by mold, get a tester out and go to your Doctor to

Personal Property Damage or Loss: Depending upon the circumstances, a Landlord may be within their rights to put your property on the street corner and the weather/thieves/etc may have their way with it without compensation to you.  If, however, your landlord violated the law and/or intentionally or negligently allowed your property to be destroyed, you have a case most likely.

Recommendation: Go to Housing Justice Project to see if your property was properly or improperly damaged.  If it was improperly harmed, call us.

Relocation: see Code Violations & Habitability.  This includes fire, sewage spills, acts of God, and other issues that make it difficult or impossible to live in your home.

Rent Raises (more than 10% requires 60 days notice):  Landlords generally can raise the rent any amount they like with proper notice.  There are times that retaliation or discrimination may apply.

Recommendation: Go to Housing Justice Project or check online at WA Law Help or Tenants Union.

Retaliation: This typically requires you to have taken some action to enforce or protect your rights and the landlord retaliates in some form or fashion.  Many actions a landlord takes may appear like retaliation but may be legally allowed.  We recommend a trip to Housing Justice Project to confirm that your landlord engaged in illegal retaliation.

Recommendation: Go to Housing Justice Project first to ensure you are dealing with illegal retaliation.

Roommate Issues (eviction, restraining orders, other issues): The famous philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said “Hell is other people.”  If you are looking at this service you likely agree.  The problem here is that as these are people that live with you, you are at risk of domestic violence, real or fabricated allegations, and usually an unclear path to financial recovery if you do sue and prevail.

Recommendation: Start with pro bono options with Housing Justice Project and online with WA Law Help to see if there are free options to resolve.  Call us if you need a private attorney to resolve and would like to schedule a paid consultation.

Seattle Municipal Code & Just Cause Violations:  See Eviction & Ejectment sections.

Tenant Buyout & Sale of Home/Building:  See Cash for Keys.

Utility Issues & Overcharging: If you see that a landlord is charging you a flat number or if the bill seems larger than you would think, likely there is a violation of law.

Recommendation: Most pro bono groups do not offer litigation services for this type of litigation, giving us a call is likely your best start.