Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Washington

We own a 10-acre property in La Center, WA. Currently, we lease the property to a farmer who runs an organic farm. He is in default on the lease; he has paid no rent since May. He claims he cannot pay us because a drop in water flow from the well has led to diminished business, and he insists we address the water shortage before he pays.\n\nThe water source is a well. We provided him with all of the information we had on the well before he signed the lease, including well tests and contact info for the previous property owners who had used the well for irrigating their farm. In addition, he was aware of the flow issues before resigning the lease last year. There is nothing in the lease about water flow; our only responsibility under the lease is to maintain the well. We went as far as hiring a well tester to evaluate the well and recommend some alternatives to increase flow, We have told the tenat that we can discuss implementing these measures when the rent is paid up; he wants us to address them before he pays. Does he have any legal grounds to do so?

Asked on 7/30/09, 12:09 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

James J. White, attorney Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC

Likely he does have legal grounds. Water is fundamental and the landlords duty to supply. Although he might use an excessive amount you were aware of the purpose for which he was leasing the land and may have implicitedly warranted it as "fit for a particular purpose." As with any legal dispute, you may win in the end. Such victories are usually "pyrrhic victories" as the cost in court and legal fees is usually far greater then whatever judgment you achieve. Even if he is obliged to reimburse you your legal fees, does he have the money? Since he's willing to pay if you fix the well I suggest you do so. If you will not or cannot fix the well perhaps he should move. You should review the particulars of your lease with a landlord/tenant attorney.

At your service,

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Answered on 8/11/09, 6:49 pm

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