Tenant Tip: privacy

You have repairs that need to be made in your unit and you notify the landlord in writing. After receiving the notice, when should the landlord enter the unit and start repairs? How far in advance is the landlord required to give you notice to enter? What if a tenant gives notice to move out and the landlord wants to stop by with a prospective tenant to show the unit? How do you address these and other privacy concerns as a tenant, and what obligations does your landlord have under the Residential Landlord Tenant Act?

Some of the most frequently asked questions on our Tenant Services Hotline are calls about privacy violations and landlords entering a unit without a tenant’s permission. This week’s tip will cover some of these concerns and provide some useful information in handling these situations. State Law (RCW 59.18.150) does not specifically discuss landlord entry into yards, sheds, or showing up and knocking on your door. It is a good idea to check your rental agreement to see if these situations are covered. You may want to speak with an attorney to see if there are legal issues that relate to these situations.

According to Washington State law, in order to enter a tenant’s unit to make repairs, or for all other cases as agreed upon, a landlord needs to give two days’ notice. The law states that the landlord shall enter at reasonable times. One way to handle this is by giving the landlord some reasonable times that work for you. This is not addressed in the law, but tenants can offer their availability to reach an agreed time for the landlord to enter. If the landlord needs to show the unit to a prospective tenant or purchaser, a one day’s notice is required along with specified times when the landlord plans to arrive. In case of emergency or abandonment, the landlord may enter the unit without notice.

A tenant may not unreasonably refuse to allow the landlord to enter the unit, and the landlord may not abuse the right to access the unit or use it to harass a tenant. If your landlord violates RCW 59.18.150, there are legal actions you can take. After the landlord enters a unit without proper notice in the case of a non-emergency, the tenant can send the landlord a written notice listing the date and time of the violation. A sample letter is provided below. You can access the Tenant Services website for more detailed information about tenants’ rights. Once the letter is sent, the landlord may be liable per violation that occurs after receiving the notice. If a tenant is unreasonably withholding consent to allow the landlord to enter the unit, the landlord may also take legal action against the tenant. For both parties, the penalty is $100 per violation after the written notice. A tenant can sue their landlord in Small Claims Court for the amount owed.

If you are concerned that your landlord is violating privacy through the frequency of visits to your yard or other outer premises, you may want to reread your rental agreement and see if there is a section covering this situation. For example, some rental agreements list the date that a landlord will be on the property to take care of the yard — so it may be previously agreed upon to expect your landlord on a specific day each time. However, not all rental agreements include such details. In these cases, tenants may chose to send the landlord a letter asking to clarify the times they expect to appear on the premises as well as ask the landlord to sign a written agreement in regards to this issue.

If you feel your privacy is constantly violated by your landlord’s illegal entry and you want to take action, you can start by writing a letter to notify them. It is important to document the date and time you feel the landlord is in violation and keep a copy for your records.  A sample letter is below, but as this is just a sample, each tenant can tailor it to best fit their situation.

For information about your rights as a tenant please see our website.

Legal Disclaimer: The information contained in this email or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

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