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How to File a Complaint Against a Washington Landlord

Camila Lopez - Washington Landlord Complaints - July 9, 2024

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    If a dispute arises between you and your landlord, what do you do? In this article, we go over different ways you can file a complaint against your landlord, including (1) sending a formal letter to your landlord, (2) filing a government complaint with either a federal or Washington government agency that regulates landlords, (3) filing a BBB complaint, and (4) suing in small claims court.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to a landlord? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Common Types of Complaints and Lawsuits Against Landlords: 

    Here are some common complaints people have against landlords:

    • Your landlord refuses to return your security deposit after you move out.

    • The terms under your lease have been breached. For example, your landlord increases the rent before the lease term was over, breaching the terms of the lease agreement.

    • Your landlord has breached Washington’s implied warranty of habitability. Warranty of habitability means that regardless of any contradicting lease term, your landlord is required to keep your unit in a habitable condition at all times.

    • You are being harassed by the landlord.

    • You experienced discrimination based on your race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, familial status, etc. For example, you were denied renting an apartment due to your gender.

    • Your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to the rental unit as per the lease terms.

    • Your landlord refuses to do anything about excessive noise or other issues you are having with your neighbors.

    Looking to file a landlord complaint in a different state? Review our 50-state guide to landlord complaints.

    Contact Your Landlord and Report a Complaint Directly

    For some issues, it may be worth speaking to the landlord directly.

    If you've never had issues with your rental before but now have complaints about common spaces, security deposit disputes, or other issues, start by sharing your concerns through email or phone. If they ignore your informal requests, consider writing a formal letter, like a demand letter or complaint letter, as this way, you can outline your requests in the letter, and notify your landlord that you will seek further action if the issue is not resolved.

    Here are some other reasons why you should consider sending a formal letter to your landlord:

    1. Proof that you tried to resolve the problem out of court. If you end up filing a small claims action against your landlord, the judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you sent your landlord a demand letter before suing. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to settle that you can demonstrate to the judge.

    2. You may resolve the problem without going to court. A demand letter signals to your landlord that you are serious about the problem and willing to take action to resolve the problem. They know that it is cheaper to resolve the problem out of court so they may agree to resolve the problem. 

    3. Many city or government agencies would like to see that you tried to resolve the problem on your own before filing a complaint. You can provide your formal letter as proof of your efforts. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to a landlord? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Here is a video on how our complaint letter tool works:

    File a Complaint With the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

    If you're wondering where to complain about a private landlord, you have options. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) handles complaints against landlords who receive assistance from the federal government. 

    HUD is a United States federal agency (HUD is also described as a cabinet department). HUD is responsible for addressing America's housing needs, enforcing fair housing laws, and more. For example, HUD runs the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line, which enables tenants of HUD-insured and -assisted properties to report complaints such as poor maintenance, dangers to health and safety, mismanagement, and fraud.

    Below are instructions for how to report a bad landlord to HUD:

    • To report a bad landlord to the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line, call toll-free at (800) MULTI-70 (800) 685-8470) / TTY (800) 432-2209.

    • Complaints of housing discrimination are handled by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (an office under HUD) at 1-800-669-9777.

    If your landlord doesn’t fall under HUD’s jurisdiction, continue reading below. 

    File a Complaint With the Appropriate State or City Agency

    You may be able to file a complaint against a landlord with a local government department in the city in which the property is located. For example, the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) provides tenants facing housing discrimination with effective resources and information to file their landlord complaints.

    Below we have included information on how to report a landlord or apartment complex to a local housing authority, state or city agency, or various rental boards in Washington. 

    File a Complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC)

    The Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) is dedicated to preventing and eliminating discrimination, including housing discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against by your landlord, you can file a complaint with the WSHRC by calling directly at 1-800-233-3247. 

    File a Complaint with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections

    The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections processes complaints from the public to identify housing in violation of building codes. To file a complaint simply call the department’s Violation Complaint Line at 206-615-0808 or file a complaint online.

    File a Tenant Counseling Intake Form with the Tenants Union of Washington State

    The Tenants Union of Washington State is committed to providing tenants with the counseling and resources needed to resolve their landlord complaints. Tenants seeking assistance with their complaints should submit a tenant counseling intake form or call the tenant's rights hotline at 206-723-0500. 

    File a Complaint with the Washington State Attorney General

    The Washington State Attorney General attempts to resolve disputes for tenants living in manufactured housing. Examples of manufactured housing include mobile and tiny homes usually built in a factory before being transported to a permanent site. If you live in a manufactured home and would like to file a complaint against your landlord, you can file it online or by printing this form and mailing it to the address listed.

    File a Complaint With the Better Business Bureau 

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between landlords and consumers. You will not find an individual landlord on the BBB. The larger the landlord you rented from, the more likely they are to be found on the BBB

    Reasons why a large landlord would respond to a BBB complaint: 

    1. If the landlord is accredited with the BBB and doesn't respond to a BBB complaint, its accreditation may be revoked, and the complaint becomes part of its BBB profile.

    2. Landlords know that a BBB rating can be an important determining factor when a prospective renter is deciding to rent with that landlord.

    Learn how to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

    Consider Suing in Small Claims Court

    Have you filed a complaint with one of the above organizations or state/city agencies and still have not been able to resolve your landlord/tenant issue? It may be time to consider suing your landlord in a Washington Small Claims Court. Washington Small Claims Courts handle a variety of issues related to landlord/tenant disputes.

    Don't forget about our free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to a landlord. Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Author

    Camila Lopez

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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