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Home Forum Extra

Seattle Times business reporter Elizabeth Rhodes posts the answers to your real estate questions as they pop up during the week. Join this ongoing discussion, which also features reader reaction to real-estate articles appearing throughout The Times.

Home Forum, Seattle Times, P.O. Box 1845, Seattle, WA 98111

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October 22, 2008 8:00 AM

Mold, broken dishwasher vex tenant

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: After moving into our rental house, we discovered the dishwasher didn't work. Several months later the landlord has done nothing about this. We also discovered the house has mold, which the landlord will neither get removed nor allow us to remove and then deduct the work from our rent. What are our options?

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September 9, 2008 8:15 AM

Ad for "preforeclosure" rental: too good to be true?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: In searching for a rental, we noticed many houses advertised online are pitching themselves with low rent if you take over the mortgage payments. Is this safe?

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September 2, 2008 7:30 AM

Landlord stalls needed repairs

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My son rents a house King County. There is a faucet leaking on the outside of the house. The water has begun to seep into one of the basement bedrooms. It is saturating the carpet and the drywall resulting in the growth of mold (or mildew). Also in another basement bedroom there is a door to the outside that is not weathertight. Water runs in under the door. I believe the landlord is required to repair both problems. There are other problems that indicate that there is no interest in maintaining the property. What do you advise?

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August 29, 2008 7:00 AM

Landlord boyfriend ponders tax issues

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My girlfriend and I are living in the town house I own and she's paying me $500 a month in rent --something less than the going rate in our neighborhood -- plus half the utilities. How do I account for this taxwise?

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August 11, 2008 8:00 AM

Tenant concerned about no final walk-through

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I requested a walk-through of the rental house I just vacated, but the landlord says he doesn't want me present. He says he's going to have his cleaning crew give him a report on the house's condition. Do I have the right to a walk-through?

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June 25, 2008 11:30 AM

Renter questions carpet cleaning requirement

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I am moving out of a large apartment complex in downtown Seattle, and I have recently been informed that I have to hire my own professional carpet cleaner upon vacating the apartment. There was no mention of this in my lease or when I moved in three years ago. Carpet cleaning seems like it should be covered under "everyday wear and tear," and not come out of my pocket. Do I need to comply with this new requirement?

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June 13, 2008 11:08 AM

Can landlord keep deposit, advance rent after tenant dies?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: When my father died May 2 he was renting a house in Anacortes. His rent was paid up for May. I flew out immediately from Tennessee, packed up my dad's stuff, and turned in the keys on June 1. The house was the best that I could do under the circumstances, although there were a few items left and things that needed to be done. I told the management company and let them know that I was going to need for them to take care of the rest.

My father's lease agreement is being waived, but management is keeping the security deposit, and until the maintenance and cleaner are paid for they are prorating the last month's rent that they're holding. They estimated the work will cost $700 to $900. The security deposit was $1,400.

How can they hold the security deposit? Can they charge June's rent when I've returned the keys? And are there any laws to help deceased renters?

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May 28, 2008 12:03 PM

Novice landlord needs advice

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: As a result of a temporary job transfer, I need to rent out my home here for about three years. Do my insurance agent or mortgage holder need to know this? Can I require my tenants to mow the lawn and pay the monthly cost of the alarm system? Can I make scheduled walk-through visits four times a year? Finally, it looks like if I join the Rental Housing Association I can have it act as property manager. Would I have to form a business first?

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May 19, 2008 4:09 PM

Tenant violates lease; landlord in quandry

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: We own a small apartment building in Seattle. Our lease requires quiet hours after 10:30 p.m. and bans renters and their guests from smoking anywhere on the property. One tenant is breaking the rules by holding loud parties until 2 a.m. where there's smoking. This tenant refuses to acknowledge other tenants' complaints, and I get stuck in the middle trying to act as mediator. What's the best way to enforce the rules?

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May 14, 2008 9:00 AM

Lack of written payment record worries tenant

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: After more than a decade I'm thinking of moving out of my apartment building, which recently was sold. However I don't have a receipt for the first/last months' rent or the damage deposit. I never had a lease so obviously there's no written record there. The only recorded information I have is in my check register; my bank cannot provide a copy of long-ago checks. Is my check register a sufficient legal document to prove to the new landlord that I paid the last month's rent and deposit?

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May 8, 2008 10:00 PM

Seattle's apartment boom expected to cool

Posted by Bill Kossen

Seattle currently is one of the country's top 10 markets for apartment construction, and it's also one of the 10 strongest for apartment demand.

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May 7, 2008 3:00 PM

Renter fears pot-growing neighbor

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: How can I get out of my apartment lease? The people living in the unit next door were growing pot, and just a few days ago someone shot four bullets into their door. The police were called and I ended up talking to them in the parking lot at 1 a.m. The situation is really scary. What can I do?

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April 24, 2008 8:00 AM

Service animals vs. no-pet policies: Which wins?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: It appears there's a potential conflict between landlords' no-pet policies and the laws surrounding service animals. What's the story here?

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April 16, 2008 10:00 AM

Tenant tackles phantom pruner issue

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: We rent a house with a large evergreen tree close to the sidewalk. A few small limbs extend a few inches onto the sidewalk. Someone (we don't know who) walks by the house regularly, clips bits of the tree off and leaves them on the sidewalk. We're afraid these clippings could pose a slipping hazard. Do we have the right to ask whoever this is to stop, or does the fact that the sidewalk is a public right-of-way give them the right to clip?

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April 3, 2008 10:15 AM

Fire damage has renter talking bankruptcy

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: We had a flash grease fire in the kitchen of our rental house, and the owner's insurance company wants us to pay $99,000 for the damage. We think that's way above the true cost. We don't have renters insurance. There's no way we can pay that amount on our limited pension and disability income, plus the $20,000 I make a year. Are we really liable? Should we start bankruptcy? Can they garnish our incomes?

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March 12, 2008 8:30 AM

Destroyer dog has landlord talking damages

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My tenant keeps her small dog locked in a bedroom during the day. The dog has shredded the bedroom carpet and clawed the door. The $400 pet fee she paid won't cover the damage. Can I ask for more or is that my limit? Also, can I ask her to get rid of the dog now? She still has four months left on her lease.

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March 6, 2008 10:30 AM

Burned out apartment tenant in a quandary

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: Help! A tenant above me caused a fire, a pipe burst and most of the water ended up in my apartment. Then my ceiling fell in. Most of my furniture and clothing were ruined, and my apartment was uninhabitable for more than three weeks. My landlord will let me out of my lease, but says I needed to pay the rent for the month the apartment was uninhabitable. She's also mentioned she may keep my deposit. Is this legal? Also, I don't have renter's insurance. Can I collect damages from the tenant who caused the fire?

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February 27, 2008 4:00 PM

Rental owner considers creating an LLC

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I own one rental house. I took out a $2 million umbrella insurance policy to protect myself and my primary home in case a renter ever sued. I'm told some investors put their homes in an LLC to protect their other assets. However my mortgage company doesn't allow LLC's so I believe what I'd have to do instead is quit-claim the rental out of my name and into the LLC. Is it advisable to do this?

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February 15, 2008 9:00 AM

Condo landlord questions insurance requirement

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My partner and I own a condominium that we rent out. We were recently informed that our condo association has voted to require all renters, including our tenant, to purchase renters insurance. Although we are all for renters insurance, we were wondering about the legality of requiring it, especially in the presence of homeowners insurance purchased by us.

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January 15, 2008 9:00 AM

Dirty carpet distresses tenant

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I recently moved into a rental house. The carpet in most of the house is unclean and does not appear to have been cleaned professionally. Does the law require a landlord to replace the carpet in a rental at some point? What steps can I take to get the landlord to either replace or professionally clean the carpets?

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January 14, 2008 2:00 AM

Dad, drugs and tenant worry adult kids

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: The adult children of a South King County homeowner are concerned because their dad, in his 70s, has rented a room in his house to a young woman with a serious methamphetamine problem. There's no lease. Their dad and the tenant are seeing each other and the dad is doing drugs now, too. He and the tenant have engaged in fights that have brought the police. Can his children force the tenant to leave when Dad won't back them up? Is it illegal to rent a room? And are there senior citizen organizations that can help when an older parent is exhibiting signs of drug abuse?

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January 9, 2008 8:00 AM

Renter needs advice as home is sold

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: The owner of our rental house has decided to sell it several months before our lease is up. What are our rights in this? Can the property manager require us to do certain work to prepare it for sale, such as yard work, power washing, window cleaning? Do we have to keep the house spotless on a daily basis? (We have kids.) Must we leave during showings?

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December 10, 2007 9:33 AM

Renter questions cost of damage repair

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I accidentally broke the glass cover off the hall light in my apartment. Rather than just replace the cover (it's pretty generic), my landlord replaced the entire light fixture with one I think is nicer. He's now charging me for it. Am I responsible for replacing the light or just the glass cover?


A: State law says you're responsible for returning the rental to its original condition, minus normal wear and tear. Thus you're responsible for damage. However the law doesn't spell out exactly what this means to you. Do you have to replace the light cover or the entire light?

Greg Home, a Bellevue attorney, says the he'd look at the facts of the situation.

First, what does your lease say about damage and repairs? Next, the cover may be generic, but is it easily replaceable? If the light was old it may not be, and the landlord may have had no choice but to replace the entire thing.

Finally, how expensive was the replacement light? Big-box home stores have many that are modestly priced. So even if the light cover could have been replaced, there may not be a dollar difference great enough to quibble about, Home says.

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November 20, 2007 4:00 PM

Renter questions extra fee

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My lease is expiring and my landlord has given me two options for staying. If I sign a six-month lease, I'll pay base rent plus an additional $25 a month, which is described as a month-to-month fee. If instead I sign a 12-month lease I was told there would be no extra charge. This doesn't seem right. Is it legal?

A: Tacoma attorney Everett Holum says it's unusual to see an add-on fee for a short-term lease, but not unusual for landlords to charge a higher rent for short-timers.

Either way, "there's nothing in the law that says they can't do that," Holum says. Further, in signing a lease that stipulates an extra charge, the tenant has agreed to pay and has no legal right to complain later.

So why would a landlord charge less for a longer lease? Because "that means they won't have to get a new tenant for the next year," Holum says. "The fee is being charged because the landlord is taking a detriment for having the reduced term."

A reduced term means potentially higher costs to the landlord in the form of cleaning costs, advertising fees and lost revenue if the unit sits vacant for any length of time.

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October 30, 2007 4:01 PM

Landlord wants renter to pay grease fire damages

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My tenants' grease fire caused $3,000 damage to my rental house. Rather than make an insurance claim, I decided to pay repair costs myself. However I would like to be reimbursed. Can I send my tenants a letter stating they owe me $3,000 due to their negligence? Or is there another option?


A: Depending on how your lease is worded, you may not be able to tap your tenant for the three grand.

"Case law in Washington says the landlord's insurance is for the benefit of the landlord and the tenant," says Seattle attorney Chris Benis of Harrison Benis & Spence. "The key is the idea that the tenant is an implied coinsured under the landlord's policy."

Therefore, if you request $3,000 from your tenant, your tenant can refuse, arguing that insurance covers both of you and he/she shouldn't have to pay. Courts would back your tenant up unless your lease has a clause that says your insurance covers you alone and your tenant isn't an implied coinsured. That kind of clause isn't standard.

You could try to recoup some of your costs by asking your tenant to pay your insurance's deductible amount. Benis says it doesn't matter whether you file an insurance claim or not.

You could also try to keep the tenant's damage deposit. However Benis says the tenant might successfully argue the insurance-coverage angle to keep it.

"A lot of these claims end up in small claims court, and I've seen country justice go both ways," he says.

His advice: appeal to the tenant to voluntarily pay something. That person "might feel appropriately bad about this and not want to have a future reference from you (to their next landlord) about their causing a fire."

Two final notes: a landlord's insurance policy covers the structure and not the tenant's possessions. That's why tenants need their own renter's policy. Also, tenants who knowingly damage a rental don't have the protection of their landlord's insurance. They're responsible for their own damage.

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October 11, 2007 6:30 AM

Damage causing tenant denies responsibility

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: A tenant left my rental home with a huge amount of damage. Broken toilet seats, broken cabinet doors and window coverings, towel bars torn off the wall are just part of it. This person claims that because there was no walk-through when she rented she's not responsible for any damage. Do I have recourse when I can prove the house was not damaged like that when she rented it?

A: There are two reasons landlords should schedule a walk-through to fill out a property-condition checklist with a new tenant. One is to collect a security deposit.

"The law says if the rental agreement is not in writing, and if you don't have a written checklist signed and dated by both parties, you're not allowed to collect a security deposit," says Tacoma attorney Dan Lazares. Obviously without a deposit you have no automatic remedy for collecting on damages.

The second reason is to create a written record you can use as proof when you take the ex-tenant to court, which is what you'll have to do now to collect. You can sue in Small Claims Court if your damage claim is less than $4,000. You won't need a lawyer.

"The fact of there not being a walk-through in the beginning does not prevent the landlord from suing, but may ultimately affect the landlord's ability to prevail," Lazares says, because "the landlord has no readily available proof at the commencement of the tenancy of what the parties agreed to."

Still, you may prevail if you have proof of the home's prior condition. Photos that are dated are an excellent source. Otherwise, Lazares says anyone who's an independent party and can verify the condition at the time of possession is a possible witness on your behalf. People who worked on the house, neighbors and even the tenant who immediately preceded the damage-doer might be willing to help you.

To prevent this situation from repeating, Lazares suggests you inspect your property inside and out every three to six months. Just make sure you give your tenant 48 hours notice, as the law requires, before scheduling an inspection.

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October 3, 2007 9:33 AM

Senior questions legality of rent increases

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I live in a senior citizens' park for manufactured homes located in South King County. After rent increases of 3 or 4 percent a year, management is now raising it almost 10 percent. Despite this, management isn't maintaining the property. Our fence has been down for months; management says it wants the men who live here, all older, to repair it. Are there any laws controlling rent increases for seniors?


A: Some years ago the Washington State Legislature took up the issue of rent controls and decided against allowing cities and counties to implement them. So the answer is no, there are no rent controls for seniors or anyone else.

As for the fence repair issue, unless your lease says tenants have to maintain the park owner's property -- and that's highly doubtful -- park residents can ignore management's request to fix it.

But what you might want to do is gather residents together to let management know what you think about the rent and maintenance situations. Don't worry about getting into hot water for speaking up. It's illegal for landlords to retaliate against tenants.

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September 28, 2007 6:00 AM

Renter questions late fee

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I paid my rent late by one day and was sent a three-day notice to pay or vacate. Is there a law in Washington or Seattle that says we have a five-day grace period? Or am I stuck with the late fee? Can I be evicted for not paying that fee?

A: Neither the state nor the city grants renters a grace period, says Kirkland attorney John Rongerude. So your lease determines the situation. If it stipulates that you must pay your rent by a certain date or incur a fine, then that's the deal you agreed to and your landlord can hold you to it. (If your lease has expired and you're living on on a month-to-month basis, the lease terms continue to apply.)

As a practical matter, however, Rongerude says "an eviction based solely on a late fee is not a very good eviction because the amount in controversy is so small." So more likely than being evicted, you might get a talking-to from the landlord's attorney.

However Rongerude says it's unwise for tenants to blow off paying their rent on time or paying late fees.

Either situation can start the eviction process, and "once that eviction is filed (with the county), you have an eviction on your record and that may hurt you," Rongerude says. Indeed, future landlords may see it and turn you down. That's legal.

And that's not the only possible repercussion. Seattle's Just Cause Ordinance limits the reasons a landlord can evict a tenant - even those who are month-to-month. Just wanting them out is not enough, but having them violate the lease in specific ways is.

A tenant who continued to ignore a late fee could be billed for it three months running. Rongerude says that would be enough to force an eviction.

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September 5, 2007 4:07 PM

Rain damages tenant's belongings

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I warned the tenant of my rental house that if it rains hard water will run down the sloping driveway and into the garage. It did recently and the items the tenant stored on the garage floor were damaged. The tenant left a window open at the same time. He says his computer was damaged because rainwater from the gutter, which was plugged with leaves, hit it. Part of our agreement was that he would clean the gutters; I left him with a new ladder so he could do that. Am I responsible for the damage to the tenant's property, or is he?


A: Seattle attorney Eric Stahlfeld says landlords have a legal duty to keep rental property in reasonably weather-tight condition. However there's no universal agreement on what constitutes reasonable. Says Stahlfeld: "Reasonable is what a jury of 12 decides."

And they decide that based on the facts of each case. Take your garage situation. A jury might rule that you haven't met your duty to make the house weather tight if it floods frequently. But if only extraordinary rain storms cause water intrusion, "you may have met your duty," Stahlfeld says.

As for the window situation, he says that's fairly clear-cut. When it's closed the house is weather tight. It's the tenant's responsibility -- not yours -- to make sure it's closed when it's raining. That, rather than a leaf-clogged gutter, is the crux of it.

Your tenant may want you to pay for the damage, but absent negligence on your part, you have no duty to compensate him. That's what renter's insurance is for. All tenants should have it, Stahlfeld says.

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August 21, 2007 6:00 AM

Will restraining order restrain apartment neighbor?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My upstairs apartment neighbor is so noisy he wakes me up at least three times every night with his banging and stomping. He also has a dog that barks all the time. I'm getting little help from management. Is it possible to get a restraining order against this neighbor to force him to move?


A: Seattle attorney Randy Redford, of Puckett & Redford, says a restraining order is an unlikely solution to your problem.

"A restraining order generally requires some kind of threat, not just a nuisance or a noise issue," Redford explains.

So unless you can convince a judge that your neighbor has made an actual threat against you, you're out of luck there.

Where does that leave you? Back dealing with apartment management to get what state landlord-tenant law grants you: the right to "quiet enjoyment" of your home.

This is the way Redford would handle this situation. First, keep a very detailed log of your neighbor's noise: the dates and times you hear it, what you hear, where in your unit you hear it, how long it continues, and its effect on you. "Be as specific as possible," he advises.

Next make a written complaint to management. State your discomfort with this situation and ask management to remedy it. If your lease contains a requirement that tenants observe quiet hours, reference that. Include a copy of your log.

If management doesn't act, you "at least have a claim to terminate your lease because management isn't enforcing your right of quiet enjoyment," Redford says. Alternately you could ask management to move you to another unit.

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August 16, 2007 6:00 AM

Must new landlord keep old tenants?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I am considering buying an older home in Snohomish County that has been converted into apartments. If I purchase this, I would want to convert it back into a single-family dwelling. I have absolutely no interest in being a landlord. Do the tenants transfer with the sale? Can I make it a condition of the sale that the tenants vacate by closing? I would really like to restore this home to its former glory, but the whole tenant thing has me extremely uncomfortable.

A: Whether the tenants transfer with the sale depends on whether the they have a lease or are living there on a month-to-month basis.

If they do have a lease, you will inherit it, as well as any deposits they paid, and you'll have to honor the lease and the deposit agreements. That means you cannot force them to leave before the lease is up.

However, you can offer them a financial incentive to move out early. Then the ball is in their court to stay or go.

At the end of a lease, it automatically converts to month-to-month status that can be concluded by giving tenants a notice, 30 days before the next rent is due, that they must move. In this case, you could make it a condition of the sale that the current owner send the notice, timing move-out to the date you close on, or possess, the property.

If you have your heart set on this house, one solution might be to hire a professional property manager to be your agent until the last tenant departs. If nothing else, having the tenants stay in place for a few months will give you time to do the preliminary planning for the home's makeover, including getting the necessary permits, while you make some rental income. Check with your lender before doing this, however, to make sure you're in compliance with loan policies.

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August 10, 2007 6:00 AM

Balcony plants bring rule change

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: We are living in an apartment in Ballard on a month-to-month lease since we have been there for over a year. We recently received a lease addendum taped to our door regarding leaving plants on balconies. Must we sign this addendum? What are the implications if we don't?

A: Once a lease is up and tenants are remaining on a month-to-month basis, a landlord can change house rules by giving the tenant 30 days notice, says Seattle attorney Michelle Geri Farris.

"Even if the tenant doesn't sign the addendum, it probably will be an enforceable rule in 30 days anyway," she says. Then if you don't abide by it you potentially could get served with the first step to an eviction: a notice to comply or vacate within 10 days.

"Obviously evictions are expensive and take time, so the question is whether a landlord would go ahead and evict based on plants on their balcony. But the landlord would have a right to."

If you have outdoor greenery that's important to you, Farris suggests that you have a cordial talk with your landlord. See what this person's concerns are. Explore compromises that would satisfy you both. If you come to an agreement, get it in writing.

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August 3, 2007 6:00 AM

Advice when a tenant threatens to sue

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: A tenant left my rental in bad condition without scheduling any walk-through. Because I had the new tenant moving in two days later, I had to do all the cleaning and repair myself as I couldn't find a handyman or a cleaning professional on such a short notice. How can I charge for my labor?

The tenant is asking for receipts for any deduction from the security deposit and is threatening to sue me to court. I took some pictures, but for instance they won't demonstrate there were severe urine stains/odors on a dark carpet. Should I just give up on problems I can't prove beyond a doubt as a judge typically gives the advantage to the tenant?


A: Seattle attorney Evan Loeffler says your situation raises a number of issues. First, there's no law that a landlord and tenant must do a walk-through when the tenant moves out; only that the two must do a walk-through, making a record of the rental's condition, when the tenant moves in. That's if the landlord is charging a security deposit. (Loeffler provides a downloadable copy of a walk-through check list on his Web site: www.loefflerlegal.com)

Second, landlords don't have to have receipts from professionals in order to pass costs on to a tenant. Landlords can do the work themselves and create receipts showing how many hours they worked and what they charged per hour.

The key here is to charge what's customary for the work done. Loeffler suggests you research what housecleaning and repair services charge, then bill accordingly. And save any receipts you have from renting equipment, such as a carpet cleaner, and buying cleaning supplies. You can give copies of all this to your former tenant.

The one thing landlords must do within 14 days of a tenant moving out is give the ex-tenant their deposit back, or an itemized accounting of how much they're keeping and why. If they don't do that they can't keep any portion of the deposit, Loeffler says.

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July 31, 2007 5:59 AM

Basic advice for novice landlord

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My wife and I are moving to San Diego for business for at least a year. We would like to rent our house and would like to know how to find a good, reliable property management organization. Do you have any recommendations or Web sites we can reference? Also, are there any resources to find out what rent is comparable in our area? If we choose to rent on our own, what guidelines can you provide for writing up a lease and checking references?

A: A good starting point for everything you need to know is the Web site http://www.rha-ps.org of the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound. The association has more than 4,400 members, from owners of large apartment complexes to those with a single rental. While some of the site's information is strictly for members, there's a lot available to any landlord or tenant.

Of interest to you is the online directory of products and services for landlords. There you'll find 48 listings under property management, including links to management firms. Spend some time there comparing services offered by companies that manage single-family houses (not all do). Then call several to get estimates and referrals; do follow up on them.

Among the questions to ask:

How much training and experience do the firms' managers have?

How many properties does each manager oversee?

You'll also want to read the various landlord-tenant laws on the association's site. As a landlord, you're responsible for knowing the laws applicable to you. This is crucial because if you and your tenant wind up in small claims court, you'll find the judge won't accept ignorance as a defense.

Most important is the state's landlord-tenant law. You're legally obligated to give a copy of it to your tenant.

If you read the association's question-and-answer section you'll get a good idea of the issues landlords face; that may help you craft your lease. The site also has information about tenant screening services -- something you'll absolutely want to use.

Professional property manager screen renters carefully because evicting someone can be very time consuming and costly. People who have a spotty record of paying their bills (or are outright deadbeats with past evictions) know the pros will decline them.

Therefore they look for landlords like you who have little to no experience. They're very adept at talking their way into rentals, and talking unsuspecting landlords out of doing background checks.

So it's important to realize that there's absolutely no benefit to you to forgo a complete background check, not when you legally can charge the prospective tenant for it.

As for setting the rent, you're on your own there to research what nearby comparable properties are going for. There's really no other way to do it. Go to the sources where you intend to advertise and see what others are charging.

One thing to know: you need to charge market rate -- not what you need to get to cover your expenses. If you're a fairly new homeowner, you may not be able to cover them completely. Many landlords can't.

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