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59.18.080  <<  59.18.085 >>   59.18.090

RCW 59.18.085

Rental of condemned or unlawful dwelling — Tenant's remedies — Relocation assistance — Penalties.

(1) If a governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of a building, housing, or other appropriate code has notified the landlord that a dwelling is condemned or unlawful to occupy due to the existence of conditions that violate applicable codes, statutes, ordinances, or regulations, a landlord shall not enter into a rental agreement for the dwelling unit until the conditions are corrected.

     (2) If a landlord knowingly violates subsection (1) of this section, the tenant shall recover either three months' periodic rent or up to treble the actual damages sustained as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, costs of suit, or arbitration and reasonable attorneys' fees. If the tenant elects to terminate the tenancy as a result of the conditions leading to the posting, or if the appropriate governmental agency requires that the tenant vacate the premises, the tenant also shall recover:

     (a) The entire amount of any deposit prepaid by the tenant; and

     (b) All prepaid rent.

     (3)(a) If a governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of a building, housing, or other appropriate code has notified the landlord that a dwelling will be condemned or will be unlawful to occupy due to the existence of conditions that violate applicable codes, statutes, ordinances, or regulations, a landlord, who knew or should have known of the existence of these conditions, shall be required to pay relocation assistance to the displaced tenants except that:

     (i) A landlord shall not be required to pay relocation assistance to any displaced tenant in a case in which the condemnation or no occupancy order affects one or more dwelling units and directly results from conditions caused by a tenant's or any third party's illegal conduct without the landlord's prior knowledge;

     (ii) A landlord shall not be required to pay relocation assistance to any displaced tenant in a case in which the condemnation or no occupancy order affects one or more dwelling units and results from conditions arising from a natural disaster such as, but not exclusively, an earthquake, tsunami, wind storm, or hurricane; and

     (iii) A landlord shall not be required to pay relocation assistance to any displaced tenant in a case in which a condemnation affects one or more dwelling units and the tenant's displacement is a direct result of the acquisition of the property by eminent domain.

     (b) Relocation assistance provided to displaced tenants under this subsection shall be the greater amount of two thousand dollars per dwelling unit or three times the monthly rent. In addition to relocation assistance, the landlord shall be required to pay to the displaced tenants the entire amount of any deposit prepaid by the tenant and all prepaid rent.

     (c) The landlord shall pay relocation assistance and any prepaid deposit and prepaid rent to displaced tenants within seven days of the governmental agency sending notice of the condemnation, eviction, or displacement order to the landlord. The landlord shall pay relocation assistance and any prepaid deposit and prepaid rent either by making individual payments by certified check to displaced tenants or by providing a certified check to the governmental agency ordering condemnation, eviction, or displacement, for distribution to the displaced tenants. If the landlord fails to complete payment of relocation assistance within the period required under this subsection, the city, town, county, or municipal corporation may advance the cost of the relocation assistance payments to the displaced tenants.

     (d) During the period from the date that a governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of a building, housing, or other appropriate code first notifies the landlord of conditions that violate applicable codes, statutes, ordinances, or regulations to the time that relocation assistance payments are paid to eligible tenants, or the conditions leading to the notification are corrected, the landlord may not:

     (i) Evict, harass, or intimidate tenants into vacating their units for the purpose of avoiding or diminishing application of this section;

     (ii) Reduce services to any tenant; or

     (iii) Materially increase or change the obligations of any tenant, including but not limited to any rent increase.

     (e) Displaced tenants shall be entitled to recover any relocation assistance, prepaid deposits, and prepaid rent required by (b) of this subsection. In addition, displaced tenants shall be entitled to recover any actual damages sustained by them as a result of the condemnation, eviction, or displacement that exceed the amount of relocation assistance that is payable. In any action brought by displaced tenants to recover any payments or damages required or authorized by this subsection (3)(e) or (c) of this subsection that are not paid by the landlord or advanced by the city, town, county, or municipal corporation, the displaced tenants shall also be entitled to recover their costs of suit or arbitration and reasonable attorneys' fees.

     (f) If, after sixty days from the date that the city, town, county, or municipal corporation first advanced relocation assistance funds to the displaced tenants, a landlord has failed to repay the amount of relocation assistance advanced by the city, town, county, or municipal corporation under (c) of this subsection, then the city, town, county, or municipal corporation shall assess civil penalties in the amount of fifty dollars per day for each tenant to whom the city, town, county, or municipal corporation has advanced a relocation assistance payment.

     (g) In addition to the penalties set forth in (f) of this subsection, interest will accrue on the amount of relocation assistance paid by the city, town, county, or municipal corporation for which the property owner has not reimbursed the city, town, county, or municipal corporation. The rate of interest shall be the maximum legal rate of interest permitted under RCW 19.52.020, commencing thirty days after the date that the city, town, county, or municipal corporation first advanced relocation assistance funds to the displaced tenants.

     (h) If the city, town, county, or municipal corporation must initiate legal action in order to recover the amount of relocation assistance payments that it has advanced to low-income tenants, including any interest and penalties under (f) and (g) of this subsection, the city, town, county, or municipal corporation shall be entitled to attorneys' fees and costs arising from its legal action.

     (4) The governmental agency that has notified the landlord that a dwelling will be condemned or will be unlawful to occupy shall notify the displaced tenants that they may be entitled to relocation assistance under this section.

     (5) No payment received by a displaced tenant under this section may be considered as income for the purpose of determining the eligibility or extent of eligibility of any person for assistance under any state law or for the purposes of any tax imposed under Title 82 RCW, and the payments shall not be deducted from any amount to which any recipient would otherwise be entitled under Title 74 RCW.

     (6)(a) A person whose living arrangements are exempted from this chapter under RCW 59.18.040(3) and who has resided in or occupied one or more dwelling units within a hotel, motel, or other place of transient lodging for thirty or more consecutive days with the knowledge and consent of the owner of the hotel, motel, or other place of transient lodging, or any manager, clerk, or other agent representing the owner, is deemed to be a tenant for the purposes of this section and is entitled to receive relocation assistance under the circumstances described in subsection (2) or (3) of this section except that all relocation assistance and other payments shall be made directly to the displaced tenants.

     (b) An interruption in occupancy primarily intended to avoid the application of this section does not affect the application of this section.

     (c) An occupancy agreement, whether oral or written, in which the provisions of this section are waived is deemed against public policy and is unenforceable.

[2009 c 165 § 1; 2005 c 364 § 2; 1989 c 342 § 13.]

Notes:

     Purpose -- 2005 c 364: "The people of the state of Washington deserve decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Certain tenants in the state of Washington have remained in rental housing that does not meet the state's minimum standards for health and safety because they cannot afford to pay the costs of relocation in advance of occupying new, safe, and habitable housing. In egregious cases, authorities have been forced to condemn property when landlords have failed to remedy building code or health code violations after repeated notice, and, as a result, families with limited financial resources have been displaced and left with nowhere to go.

     The purpose of this act is to establish a process by which displaced tenants would receive funds for relocation from landlords who fail to provide safe and sanitary housing after due notice of building code or health code violations. It is also the purpose of this act to provide enforcement mechanisms to cities, towns, counties, or municipal corporations including the ability to advance relocation funds to tenants who are displaced as a result of a landlord's failure to remedy building code or health code violations and later to collect the full amounts of these relocation funds, along with interest and penalties, from landlords." [2005 c 364 § 1.]

     Construction -- 2005 c 364: "The powers and authority conferred by this act are in addition and supplemental to powers or authority conferred by any other law or authority, and nothing contained herein shall be construed to preempt any local ordinance requiring relocation assistance to tenants displaced by a landlord's failure to remedy building code or health code violations." [2005 c 364 § 4.]