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Seattle and Tacoma Landlord Problem Attorneys

Don’t Let Landlord Problems Linger: The Seattle and Tacoma Landlord Problem Attorneys are Here for You

Seattle and Tacoma are seeing an increase in evictions, according to the King County Bar Association. These evictions often occur with landlord and tenant misunderstandings that could be avoided.

The challenge is finding a legal professional that can guide you. The Seattle and Tacoma landlord problem attorneys understand and are here to help. We will look out for you and stand up to protect your rights as a tenant.

The Most Common Landlord Problems: How Can the Seattle and Tacoma Landlord Problem Attorneys Help?

Landlord problems occur when they fail to follow the lease terms and the law. The most common problems we see include:

Lease Disagreements

Disputes over the lease are among the biggest issues between tenants and landlords. The lease specifically states what is expected of each party. Your attorney reviews the lease to understand these obligations and show how your landlord could violate them.

Repairs and Maintenance

Landlords must perform the necessary maintenance on the property. Our attorneys will investigate and compel the landlord to make the repairs or face legal action. You have rights, and the landlord must honor their obligations.

Security Deposit Issues

The landlord must return your security deposit if nothing is damaged and you leave the property in good shape. Withholding the security deposit for no reason is a violation of the law. Our skilled Seattle and Tacoma landlord problem attorneys will fight for your rights. We hold landlords accountable and push them to do the right thing by giving you back your deposit.

Self-Help Evictions

Sometimes, landlords become aggressive and engage in self-help-style evictions. They show up and try to kick you out of the property without going before a judge and obtaining an eviction order.

These evictions are illegal; your attorney will review the landlord’s actions to determine if they broke the law. We are prepared to go to court and represent you to protect your rights. Most of the time, alternatives can be worked out without evicting you. Our attorneys will fight for you and prevent the landlord from engaging in self-help evictions.

We recommend speaking with a skilled attorney about your situation. The attorneys at Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess have decades of experience with landlord disputes. We will stand up and fight for your rights. Contact us at 206-429-4418 (Seattle), 253-358-8473 (Tacoma), 360-742-3500 (Olympia), 971-416-0881 (Portland) to schedule your consultation with a skilled attorney.


The landlord/tenant relationship is complicated, as each party has certain rights and responsibilities under the law. However, just as in any other type of relationship, disputes can arise, with each party striving for dispute resolution in their favor.

Whether you are a residential landlord, a residential tenant, a commercial landlord, or a commercial tenant, the experienced real estate lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess in Seattle and Tacoma will help you resolve your issues most favorably.


Depending on the specific basis for the dispute, legal cases involving landlords and tenants may involve many different areas of the law, including state statutes, contract law, premises liability, real property, bankruptcy, and fair housing. Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess attorneys are thoroughly familiar with all the applicable laws and legal doctrines that may apply to landlord/tenant cases to assist you, no matter the cause of your dispute.


Disputes between landlords and tenants may arise in a wide variety of ways, including but not limited to the following:

  • Lease interpretation disagreements
  • Defects on the property
  • Premises liability claims
  • Failure to maintain the property
  • Waste
  • Fair Housing or ADA claims
  • Non-payment of rent
  • Retaliatory, “self-help,” or otherwise wrongful evictions
  • Unlawful detainer
  • Wrongful termination of lease.

Each landlord/tenant case requires a particular type of legal action, depending on the type of party, the issues leading to the dispute, and other circumstances. Our attorneys know how to evaluate your case to determine the most appropriate way to resolve your dispute.


Residential landlord-tenant law is governed by RCW 59.18 in Washington State. This law is commonly referred to as the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess, we represent landlords and tenants throughout Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. Given the difference in the respective positions of these individuals, there are specific legal duties you should know:


  • Code compliance. Comply with all applicable municipal or county codes, ordinances, or regulations associated with the rental premises.
  • Basic structural maintenance. Maintain roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, foundations, and all other structural components in reasonably good repair. Keep any shared or common areas clean, sanitary, and defect free.
  • Pest control. Ensure the property is free from pest infestation at the outset of the tenancy and control.
  • Repairs to normal wear and tear. Arrange for repairs as necessary except where damage is attributable to normal wear and tear.
  • Unit maintenance. Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances supplied to tenants in reasonable working condition.
  • Protection against the elements. Ensure the property is weather-tight and provides adequate heat and water access (including hot water).
  • Waste Disposal. Provide receptacles for garbage and removal of the same in multi-family units.
  • Follow notice procedures. Provide written fire safety and protection notice, as directed in 59.18.060(12).

If a landlord violates one or more duties, tenants have options. If a problem is encountered with the rental unit, tenants must first alert the landlord of the problem(s) via a written notice that describes the nature of the defect(s).

In response, the landlord must begin remedial action immediately and comply with the applicable time frames outlined in RCW 59.18.070(1)-(3). If a landlord fails to remedy the defect(s) within a reasonable time, tenants may be entitled to a portion of the rent owed/paid. Under certain circumstances, a tenant may be able to contract with a third party to make necessary repairs and deduct the costs from rent owed to the landlord.


Tenant obligations towards their rental unit are outlined in RCW 59.18.130. In general, these duties include the following:

  • Code compliance. Check for any applicable municipal or county codes, ordinances, or regulations.
  • Timely rental payments. Pay the correct amount of rent on or by the correct date, as indicated in the rental agreement.
  • Unit upkeep. Keep the premises clean and sanitary, including proper disposal of garbage.
  • Fixtures. Properly use and operate the fixtures and appliances supplied by the landlord.
  • No unusual damage to the unit. Avoid intentional or negligent destruction, defacement, damage, impairment, or removal of the property (including fixtures, appliances, furniture, etc., supplied by the landlord). (Note that this does not prohibit damage to the premises through normal wear and tear.)
  • No drug or gang activity. This is obvious, but a renter must avoid any illicit drug or gang-related activity on the premises.
  • Smoke detectors. Renters must maintain smoke detectors in the unit. (Note that some local fire departments have federally-funded programs to visit your property and help install smoke detectors. Check with your local municipality to see if you are eligible.)
  • Be safe. Avoid any hazardous activity that could harm others.
  • Leave it how you found it. Upon vacating the premises, restore them to the condition equivalent to when the tenant took possession of the same.

If a tenant violates one or more of their duties, landlords may give written notice to the tenant outlining the nature of the violation(s) under RCW 59.18.180. A landlord is authorized to enter the premises to perform necessary work to be done or can begin the eviction (unlawful detainer) process (note that some circumstances require serving written notice to vacate before commencing an unlawful detainer action while others do not).

It is important to note that landlords often encounter pitfalls involving the service of unlawful detainer documentation (pleadings). Often, due to the difficulties in performing service of the unlawful detainer documentation, the timing gets disrupted from a civil procedure standpoint. It has a lot to do with the differing notice requirements, since they vary depending on the basis for issuing the notice to vacate.

For instance, if a tenant is not paying rent, a landlord can issue a three-day notice to pay or vacate. It is important to note that it must be a notice to pay rent or vacate within three days. This means that it is an either/or scenario and that the tenant can remedy the situation by paying all past-due rent, with any applicable fees, or by vacating the premises. If the tenant fails to do either of these things within three days, you may initiate unlawful detainer proceedings.

Another example of a written notice to vacate from a landlord to a tenant is the catch-all notice: the 20-day notice of termination of tenancy. This is an option that is available on any month-to-month residential lease agreement. It does not require a for-cause reason to terminate the tenancy; in other words, you may utilize this option for any reason (note that the City of Seattle has adopted more rigid rules that you must comply with).

It is important to recognize that this 20-day notice does not operate like the 3-day notice to pay rent or vacate. Unlike the 3-day notice, which allows a landlord to initiate an unlawful detainer action on the 4th day, a 20-day notice must be served at least 20 days before the end of the lease period (or 20 days before the end of the month).

Unlawful detainer actions may be commenced after the end of said lease period. For example, if the landlord serves the 20-day termination of tenancy on the third day of the month, a landlord cannot begin an unlawful detainer action on the 24th of the month – they must wait until the first day of the following month.


Tenant notification of the initiation of an eviction (unlawful detainer) process can be accomplished in one of three ways. (Following these notice procedures is tremendously important. If a landlord fails to follow the procedures, Washington courts will not execute the necessary orders to remove the tenant from the rental unit.)

These three methods of service are (1) personal service, (2) substitute service, and (3) posting and mailing.

Personal Service. Hand a hard copy of the notice to each tenant.

Substitute Service. Hand a hard copy of the notice for each tenant to either a tenant or someone else of suitable age, and mail a copy of the notice to each tenant.

Posting and Mailing. When no one is available to hand the documents to (assuming the person serving has knocked and verified that no one was home), you may post the notices in a conspicuous place on the premises (one copy for each known tenant) and mail a copy of the notice to each tenant.

In calculating the timing of the service, it is crucial to remember that the day of service does not count in the calculation; if you are mailing notices, it must add the day to the calculation.

Why Choose Us?

At Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess, you work with skilled Seattle and Tacoma landlord problem attorneys. We have decades of experience handling various disputes and will aggressively represent your interests. You have rights, and we will ensure that they are respected.

Your attorney works to resolve these issues quickly and smoothly. We prefer to negotiate solutions without taking legal action, but we are prepared to go all the way if we have no other choice. Your attorney will represent you in all legal proceedings and knows the local, state, and federal regulations.

We have connections with the legal community and the resources to ensure skilled professionals properly represent you. Our team listens and understands your situation to offer prudent legal advice. Contact Dickson Frohlich Phillips & Burgess at 206-429-4418 (Seattle), 253-358-8473 (Tacoma), 360-742-3500 (Olympia), 971-416-0881 (Portland) to schedule your consultation with a skilled attorney.