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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    18

    Default Notice Requirements for a Tenant's Breach of Lease, RCW 59.18.190

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Washington

    I am uncertain how to interpret RCW 59.18.190, which states, "Whenever the landlord learns of a breach of RCW 59.18.130 or has accepted performance by the tenant which is at variance with the terms of the rental agreement or rules enforceable after the commencement of the tenancy, he or she may immediately give notice to the tenant to remedy the nonconformance. Said notice shall expire after sixty days unless the landlord pursues any remedy under this chapter" and I would like some help with this.

    I will also provide some context in case someone may redirect my attention to something more applicable.

    In September 2018, I was given notice that renter's insurance would be required starting in November. Then, and now, I am no longer in a lease and am in a month-to-month agreement; Nevertheless, it seemed pretty clear the addendum included in the notice applied regardless of my having a current lease. The notice said the addendum would apply whether I signed and returned it or not. I never returned it because it didn't seem necessary. I pursued getting renter's insurance, but life got in the way, and I eventually forgot to finalize it. 9 months went by and I never heard anything from my property management about it. Then, on April 23, 2019, I received a noticed that I had been charged for three months penalty and would have three days to respond (i.e. show proof of renter's insurance) or be charged again for May. I do not dispute the penalty fees charged up to April, despite the fact that it seem inethical that they could charge me fees with no warning prior or during that time. However, because of life, I knew I could not respond within the three day window. I had concerts that week and a job interview in another city. I wrote to the leasing manager by email asking for a week rather than three days and they refused. (They also refused to speak with me by phone and insisted on all communication by email). So, I couldn't get the renter's insurance until May 2, but I submitted it then by fax and included a letter, again stating that I would pay the penalties I owed prior to the notice, but that I did not think it was fair to charge me another month's penalty with such short time to respond. The leasing manager feels I have been given "sufficient" notice since I was notified of the addendum in September.

    In the meantime, I have paid my rent on time for every month between September and now, and it has been accepted by office. So I guess I have a few related questions: (1) Does RCW 59.18.190 provide any indication that the landlord has acquiesced since it has been beyond 60-days since they noticed my error (indicated by the fact that they have apparently been charging me for three months without my knowledge) and since they accepted my rent for this long without any attempt to collect the debt until 3 months into it? (2) Can they really only give 3-days notice before charging another non-refundable fee? and (3) Is no communication between Sept-April about this issue really sufficient?

    Thank you so much for any suggestions or knowledge out there!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    17,125

    Default Re: Rcw 59.18.190 And/or Advice About Sufficient Notice

    Let's be a bit more precise and say you got the notice on Sept 1 that you had to have renters insurance by Nov 1. You didn't have it from Nov 1 to Jan 1 (the 60 days referred to in 59.18.190) the landlord did nothing to enforce the rule change. After Jan 1 the notice expired.

    My opinion for the 2 cents that it's worth is that the landlord would have had to give you a new notice of the rule change before being able to charge you anything.

    The next question is how much notice.

    There doesn't appear to be anything in the statutes as to how much notice is required for a change in the terms of a rental agreement but my belief has always been that a change in terms is the equivalent of terminating the existing rental agreement in favor of a new rental agreement.

    RCW 59.18.200(1)(a) When premises are rented for an indefinite time, with monthly or other periodic rent reserved, such tenancy shall be construed to be a tenancy from month to month, or from period to period on which rent is payable, and shall be terminated by written notice of twenty days or more, preceding the end of any of the months or periods of tenancy, given by either party to the other.
    Since he never gave you a new notice of the change in terms (minimum 20 days, the penalty notice doesn't count) I don't think you owe any penalties at all.

    Your options: pay or refuse to pay. Up to you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Behind a Desk
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    98,846

    Default Re: Rcw 59.18.190 And/or Advice About Sufficient Notice

    Quote Quoting pphilip
    View Post
    In September 2018, I was given notice that renter's insurance would be required starting in November. Then, and now, I am no longer in a lease and am in a month-to-month agreement...
    From what you are stating, this would appear to be a valid modification of the tenancy, with sufficient notice for you to end the tenancy before the effective date if the modification were not acceptable to you.
    Quote Quoting pphilip
    Then, on April 23, 2019, I received a noticed that I had been charged for three months penalty and would have three days to respond (i.e. show proof of renter's insurance) or be charged again for May. I do not dispute the penalty fees charged up to April, despite the fact that it seem inethical that they could charge me fees with no warning prior or during that time.
    You have not shared the language of the rental insurance notice requirement with us. If the provision requires that you purchase rental insurance but, either on its own or in association with the remainder of the lease, does not provide for any financial penalty for your failure to do so, then the fine is not appropriate. If there is provision for a fine, the fine must still be reasonable and proportionate.
    Quote Quoting pphilip
    Does RCW 59.18.190 provide any indication that the landlord has acquiesced since it has been beyond 60-days since they noticed my error (indicated by the fact that they have apparently been charging me for three months without my knowledge
    RCW 59.18.190 requires the landlord to give you notice to cure a violation of the lease before the landlord can commence an eviction action. So while the landlord's ability to evict you would have been constrained by that provision, it does not appear to be relevant to your situation as it appears we are merely speaking of your being billed under a penalty provision of the lease.
    Quote Quoting pphilip
    ...and since they accepted my rent for this long without any attempt to collect the debt until 3 months into it?
    We don't have any of your lease language to work with, but there's nothing inherent in the landlord's delay in enforcing a penalty provision that would stop it from later enforcing that provision. It sounds like the landlord is already giving you a partial break based upon the landlord's late move to enforce the insurance requirement.
    Quote Quoting pphilip
    Can they really only give 3-days notice before charging another non-refundable fee?
    That can't be answered without reviewing the contract language; but if the penalty is supported by the lease as amended, if it is enforceable, and if it is triggered at the first of each month under the language of the lease as amended, then they can charge you in accord with the lease.

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    View Post
    My opinion for the 2 cents that it's worth is that the landlord would have had to give you a new notice of the rule change before being able to charge you anything.
    I don't see how you have come up with that theory.
    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    There doesn't appear to be anything in the statutes as to how much notice is required for a change in the terms of a rental agreement but my belief has always been that a change in terms is the equivalent of terminating the existing rental agreement in favor of a new rental agreement.
    The statute for a change in rent or rules would normally require thirty days notice, RCW 59.18.140. However, notice was given in September, 2018, to be effective in November, 2018, and, as October is 31 days long, more than thirty days notice was given.

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