Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Washington

Forced to pay for wear and tear repairs?

Our furnace in the house we rent recently went out. The landlord told me it was my responsibility so I had a heating contractor come out and repair it and I paid for it. The main control board in the furnace failed at no fault of ours. The repair was $400. I asked the landlord to reimburse me for this and they said they will give me 1/2 based on the fact that we are good tenants. They say that we are responsible for ALL repairs no matter what and they are being nice to give us anything.

A line in our lease reads we agree ''to pay for repairs of all damage, including drain stoppages, they or their guest have caused''. The landlord interprets this as ANYTHING that needs repair. I see it that it was not damage related, nor anything that we caused. It was just something that broke.

Any opinions on this? Thank you.

Asked on 2/07/09, 3:11 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Thuong-Tri Nguyen Thuong-Tri Legal Services, PLLC
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Likely landlord is responsible

RCW 59.18.060 (Landlord Duties) provides: "The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular: (7) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances supplied by him in reasonably good working order;" and "(10) Except where the building is not equipped for the purpose, provide facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant;"

The statutes are at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18 .

If your rental situation is covered by the RLTA, repairing the furnace because its controller went out is the landlord's responsibility.

Here's the thing, the landlord factors all the costs of the rental into the monthly rent. If the landlord pays this $400, he likely will just increase your rent the next available opportunity to cover this cost. So, one way or another you likely will end up paying for the repair.

If you are intending to live at the house for a long time, you should consider how much you want to assert your legal rights. If you like living at the rental and the rent is a good deal, turning the situation hostile may not benefit you in the long run. (Legally, the landlord cannot retaliate against you for asserting your rights under the RLTA.)

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2/07/09, 4:17 pm
Amir John Showrai The Pacific Law Firm, PLLC
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0 attorneys agreed

Re: Forced to pay for wear and tear repairs?

Your landlord is wrong. Under the Residential Landlord Tenant Act, he is responsible for heating repairs, especially if the failure was caused by normal wearing out of a circuit board. Had you done something abusive, maybe then we could discuss your responsibility. That said, for the remaining $200 you are out, but the time you sue the landlord and miss a day of work, even if you win, you are likely to still be behind financially, given that I think your lost wages and court costs (not to mention the aggravation you will put yourself through for $200) will exceed anything you win.

What I would do if I were you is write the landlord, remind them that they are responsible under the law for heating repairs. Indicate that you think they ought to refund the remaining $200 to you on that basis, given that the lease violates that section of the law (RCW 59.18.060) which requires him to pay for such repairs.

You can even tell him that you will go to small claims court if he refuses. That may light a fire under him to figure it out and refund the money, or at least next time, he won't push you around like this.

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2/07/09, 8:33 pm

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