The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Max Erikson
Reporter 

Good housing and upkeep is hard to find

 

January 24, 2018



For those who have lived in Goldendale many years or have recently moved here, it is common knowledge that Goldendale has an available-housing crisis, making it challenging for people and families to find affordable or quality domiciles.

Construction of new homes in the area has been limited for many years, and the lack of development of new housing units, particularly apartment complexes, has created a housing shortage for residents who can’t or don’t want to purchase a home.

Currently, about 50 percent of Goldendale residents are renting in the area. With a limited amount of available housing, renters generally are at the proclivity of landlords to determine a fair price for the rental and whether or not the landlord chooses to fully engage in the maintenance and upkeep of the property.

Tenants sometimes can be subjugated to the landlord’s complacency to update, maintain, or fix problems that arise during the tenure of the rental agreement. Because demand is so high, and with few housing choices, renters are left with few options other than to accept a rental property that is not well maintained or is not promptly serviced when things break down or need replacing.

For renters who have experienced difficulties with properly maintained rentals there is a law—the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of Washington State—that sets guidelines for conduct and expectations for the Landlord-Tenant relationship.

There are “minimum standards” that must be met under the Housing Regulations 2008 and 2009 (Standards for Rented Houses) set by the Department of the Environment and Community and Local Government. Local authorities—in this case, the city of Goldendale—are responsible for inspecting rentals and enforcing the “minimum standards,” listed below.

• The building must be free from damp conditions and in good structural repair.

• Hot and cold water available to the tenant.

• Adequate heating and ventilation.

• All appliances in good working order.

• Electrical wiring, gas and water pipes all in good repair.

• Provide cooking preparation units, storage for food, and laundry facilities, including an oven and grill, fridge and freezer and microwave oven. (This is not applicable to Approved Housing Body Tenancies)

• Have a fire blanket and fire alarms.

• Have access to refuse storage facilities (garbage).

If a tenant believes that the landlord is not meeting these requirements, the tenant should inform the landlord of the problem in writing and request that the landlord takes steps to fix the problem. A request to the city can also be made to have the property inspected if the renter can demonstrate that the minimum standards are not in compliance.

The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act lays out certain conditions that a landlord is required to meet—under the law—to maintain a dwelling, fix damaged or unsafe property, and to act promptly for certain types of fixes that are more pressing than others, such as loss of water, heat, or refrigeration.

The law is designed to protect renters, but it is also enacted to protect landlords from legal action from uncompliant tenants. The law protects tenants from landlord abuse or neglect and gives landlords a list of requirements that must be met to be in compliance.

Below are excerpts from that law condensed to the most basic terms. Readers can access the full provisions of the law by internet searching Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. The standards for which a landlord is required to remedy any defects that a renter may have with their dwelling are listed below.

RCW 59.18.070

Landlord—Failure to perform duties—Notice from tenant—Contents—Time limits for landlord’s remedial action.

If at any time during the tenancy the landlord fails to carry out the duties required by RCW 59.18.060 or by the rental agreement, the tenant may, in addition to pursuit of remedies otherwise provided him or her by law, deliver written notice to the person designated in *RCW59.18.060(14), or to the person who collects the rent, which notice shall specify the premises involved, the name of the owner, if known, and the nature of the defective condition. The landlord shall commence remedial action after receipt of such notice by the tenant as soon as possible but not later than the following time periods, except where circumstances are beyond the landlord’s control:

(1) Not more than twenty-four hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or is imminently hazardous to life;

(2) Not more than seventy-two hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord; and

(3) Not more than ten days in all other cases.

In each instance the burden shall be on the landlord to see that remedial work under this section is completed promptly. If completion is delayed due to circumstances beyond the landlord’s control, including the unavailability of financing, the landlord shall remedy the defective condition as soon as possible.

Below is the list of duties that landlords are required to fulfill to the renter.

RCW 59.18.060

Landlord—Duties.

The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular:

(1) Maintain the premises to substantially comply with any applicable code, statute, ordinance, or regulation governing their maintenance or operation…;

(2) Maintain the structural components including, but not limited to, the roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, foundations, and all other structural components, in reasonably good repair so as to be usable;

(3) Keep any shared or common areas reasonably clean, sanitary, and safe from defects increasing the hazards of fire or accident;

(4) Provide a reasonable program for the control of infestation by insects, rodents, and other pests at the initiation of the tenancy and… during tenancy…;

(5) Except where the condition is attributable to normal wear and tear, make repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in as good condition as it by law or rental agreement…;

(6) Provide reasonably adequate locks and furnish keys to the tenant;

(7) Maintain and safeguard with reasonable care any master key or duplicate keys to the dwelling unit;

(8) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances supplied by him or her in reasonably good working order;

(9) Maintain the dwelling unit in reasonably weathertight condition;

(10) …provide and maintain appropriate receptacles in common areas for the removal of ashes, rubbish, and garbage, incidental to the occupancy and arrange for the reasonable and regular removal of such waste;

(11) Provide facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant;

If a court rules that a landlord is not maintaining these conditions and the rental unit is determined to be uninhabitable, termination of the rental agreement is possible.

As a tenant, the law also requires renters to comply with aspects of the Landlord-Tenant Act to ensure that both parties are protected and mutually accountable.

RCW 59.18.130

Duties of tenant.

Each tenant shall pay the rental amount at such times and in such amounts as provided for in the rental agreement… and in addition shall:

(1) Keep that part of the premises which he or she occupies and uses as clean and sanitary as the conditions of the premises permit;

(2) Properly dispose from his or her dwelling unit all rubbish, garbage, and other organic or flammable waste…

(3) Properly use and operate all electrical, gas, heating, plumbing and other fixtures and appliances supplied by the landlord;

(4) Not intentionally or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the structure or dwelling…or any person acting under his or her control to do so.

(5) Not permit a nuisance or common waste;

(6) Not engage in drug-related activity at the rental premises…

(7) Maintain the smoke detection device in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, including the replacement of batteries…

(8) Not engage in any activity at the rental premises that is:

(a) Imminently hazardous to the physical safety of other persons on the premises; and

(b)(i) Entails physical assaults upon another person which result in an arrest; or

(ii) Entails the unlawful use of a firearm or other deadly weapon as defined in RCW 9A.04.110 which results in an arrest, including threatening another tenant or the landlord with a firearm or other deadly weapon…

(9) Not engage in any gang-related activity at the premises, as defined in RCW 59.18.030, or allow another to engage in such activity at the premises…

(10) Upon termination and vacation, restore the premises to their initial condition except for reasonable wear and tear or conditions caused by failure of the landlord to comply with his or her obligations under this chapter. The tenant shall not be charged for normal cleaning if he or she has paid a nonrefundable cleaning fee.

For full details of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act visit the website at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18 to get a broader understanding of the law and to know the provisions that are in place to protect both renters and landlords alike.

 

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