Click her As a homeowner the familiar blood curdling screech or chirp of a smoke alarm when its batteries run low almost always leads to the following order of events at my house: the smoke detector is ripped from the ceiling and set aside for the day until the batteries get replaced. But what does the law say about who has a responsibility to make sure smoke detectors are working properly and kept up to date in a rental housing context? Surprisingly, landlords and tenants share this responsibility in Oregon.
ORS 90 is the general term for the Oregon Landlord Tenant Act. This body of law works with other Oregon laws both at the State and Municipal level to insure that tenants have a place to live that is habitable. There are many duties of both landlords and tenants that can be easily overlooked but are essential to providing a habitable place for tenants / occupants to live! One of these is smoke detectors!
First, upon move-in a landlord is required to furnish working smoke detectors in every rental unit in compliance with local building codes. Title 29 requires smoke detectors to be supplied and installed in all sleeping areas, in hallways adjacent to a sleeping area, and in each additional story of the rental where a habitable space is provided – this includes both basements and attics. Landlord is required to provide fresh new batteries for any battery operated smoke detector in the unit. The final duty of the landlord under ORS 90.320 is to replace any detector which is malfunctioning upon written request from a tenant!
ORS 90.325 places a duty on the tenants and occupants of a rental home not to tamper with a functioning smoke detector. Also, tenants are required under law to check to make sure the smoke detectors are functioning every six months. Tenants are also obligated to replace the batteries in a smoke detector if the battery runs low. ORS 479.275 places the duty on a tenant to give written notice to a landlord for a non-working smoke detector to be replaced. Remember, this is a tenant obligation. Once a notice is received landlords should immediately respond and take appropriate action to make sure that the warrant of habitability is maintained in the rental housing context.
Due to the broad nature of the content in our anticipated post to be released this week regarding Rule and Regulation changes to housing agreements in both multi-family and single-family housing in Oregon, we have instead elected to review what is expected of Landlords and Tenants in the context of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors in rental housing. Stay tuned next week for our comprehensive review of Rule and Regulation changes under Oregon Law.
Many property owners have antiquated rules and regulations that govern the conduct of their tenants on their properties. It’s always a best practice to give your new tenants a copy of the R&R’s at lease signing and get a signed acknowledgement from them that they have reviewed and understand the rules. But what about tenants who have resided on your property for many years. Or what about multi-family housing with different anniversary dates for their lease signings. What about month-to-month leases? This article will explore a landlords’ obligation in Washington for these various situations. The best way to maintain a good relationship with your tenants is to make sure that all parties know what one another expect and conduct regular inspections of the properties.
Updating R&R’s in Washington – the month to month versus the annual lease. If your tenancy is governed by RCW 59.18 (Landlord Tenant Act) the law requires thirty days advanced notice of a Rule change prior to the end of lease term. If the tenants are on a month to month lease, the lease agreement renews every month – therefore a landlord can change the rules for the next month with at least thirty days’ notice.
RCW 59.18.140 also enables landlords to increase rent with 30-day notice. Because Rent Control is illegal in Washington landlord can raise rent as often as they see fit, so long as they comply with proper notice requirements. Exceptions to this general rule do apply based on municipalities and other local ordinances (see City of Seattle).
Tenants and landlords on an annual lease are provided a little more stability and protection than the month-to-month. One of the ideas behind an annual lease is that the landlord gets the peace of mind knowing they will have a long term stable tenant – don’t forget that Washington law requires a lease for a term of more than one year to be signed in front of a Notary Public.
In the manufactured housing context, which is where we focus here at Sterling Properties Park Rules are always part of the written rental agreement. R&R’s renew automatically under RCW 59.20.060. Often the agreement for space rental will permit the Landlord to update their rules more frequently than once per year if the tenant is on an annual lease. Rule changes which relate to park rules about pets, children living with tenants, or recreational facilities may only go into effect after six months written notice of rule change in Washington. A landlord who desires to change a different rule that does not apply to the above protected areas does not have to give six months written notice. Tenants in manufactured housing communities in Washington are required to be offered an annual lease. In the event a Tenant signs a waiver of annual lease their tenancy will be month-to-month. In the event they are on a month to month lease rule changes would require at least 30 days notice, just like a standard single family home or apartment under the RLTA as described above.
ORS 90 governs Landlord / Tenant relations and lays out the guidelines for a change to Rules and Regulations of properties within the State of Oregon. Stay tuned next week for an update on how to navigate rule changes for Oregon properties. Trust me, they are VERY different than Washington even though the two States are right next to door to each other.
Good morning from Sterling Properties Real Estate Services! We hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend celebrating Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr.! I was recently discussing some of the difficulties in tenant screening with a prospective client when it dawned on me that this is an issue I have heard about from landlords many times over the years as an attorney. Usually when a landlord comes to see me it is because they have a tenant who is either violating the rules stated in the Rules and Regulations / Lease Agreement for their rental property or a tenant has stopped paying rent. These are both headaches for landlords and navigating the complexities of RCW 59.18 / 59.20 or ORS 90 can give cause for a landlord to reach out to their attorney or property manager to discuss what steps to take to fix the problem. The best advice I can give to a landlord is to thoroughly screen any tenant who takes occupancy of their rental property. Usually by the time they contact me it’s too late and only legal action will be appropriate.
You need to make sure during tenant screening that if an application is denied it is done so for a proper reason. No landlord can discriminate or deny an application based on someone being a member of a protected class – race, sex, education, disability, etc. Some things that every landlord should know / review about a prospective tenant are as follows:
1. Criminal Background Check – before leasing space to anyone it is always prudent to do both a local and federal background check to see what if any criminal history a prospective tenant may have. Some crimes to watch out for would be any felony conviction, sex offenses, and any crime involving moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is lawyer talk for crimes of dishonesty – such as theft or burglary. Also, look for assault convictions or crimes of domestic violence. Although not necessarily a disqualifier a criminal conviction can give you some insight into the behaviors of a prospective tenant that has required attention of law enforcement!
2. Rental History – this seems like a no brainer. Has the tenant been a good resident wherever they are coming to you from? Check references and follow up with prior landlords to make sure you are not inheriting a difficult tenant.
3. Revolving Income – check to see if your prospective tenant is employed or if they have some sort of revolving income. This will prevent you from having to evict a tenant when the cannot make their second months rent! As a general rule you want your tenant to be making at least 2.5 to 3 times the rental amount in monthly income. Rent should never account for more than thirty-five percent of a person’s / household net take-home income. If you check this up front you will be able to rest assured that your tenant will have sufficient funds available to pay for their housing.
4. Credit Check – this will give you a good idea of whether the prospective tenant has good credit or are trustworthy to pay their financial obligations.
Remember this is not an exhaustive list of things to look out for – just some pointers for those who are new to tenant screening or are considering renting a home or property to someone they don’t know anything about. We suggest at a minimum taking these items into consideration when leasing a space to a prospective tenant.
Let me know if you have any questions regarding the tenant screening process and I’d be happy to discuss them with you! Or if you own a rental property and are doing your best to get it leased and are ready to no longer have the headache of managing your own property – give us a call!
Did you know security and damage deposits (refundable) have rules landlords and tenants need to follow to make sure they are in compliance with RCW 59.18.260-280? This statute has teeth against a landlord who may get a little lax and violate this law when it comes move out time for a tenant!
Greetings! My name is Bjorn Hess and I am an attorney in Washington and Oregon. I currently serve as Chief of Operations Officer at Sterling Properties Real Estate Services. Our company has decided to begin a new series on ORS 90 and RCW 59.18 / 59.20 collectively the landlord tenant acts in both Oregon and Washington. The purpose of this blog is to provide guidance for landlords and tenants in navigating what can be a complex area of law.
I was recently approached by a colleague and recent law graduate with an issue she and her client are facing surrounding return of security deposits. This article applies specifically to RCW 59.18.260-280 under the Washington Landlord Tenant Act.
Landlords under the Act must provide a written accounting to tenants on move-out within twenty-one days of move out. This applies to landlords who have collected a damage or security deposit which is refundable. Failure to provide an accurate accounting can result in award of damages DOUBLE the amount of the security deposit and an award of attorney’s fees and costs for violation of this law.
Keep in mind any time a new tenant takes occupancy of a unit and a security deposit or damage deposit is placed on the property a walk-through inspection with a checklist must be completed with the new tenant prior to move in. This provides peace of mind for both the tenant and the landlord when it comes time for move-out. Did Fido eat the bannister or was it already damaged?
To prevent finger pointing a month, a year, or more after a move-in we strongly suggest that landlords maintain photographs of all areas of the property – preferably time stamped and included with the initial walk through inspection.
Next, as soon as the tenant gives notice to vacate give them a notice of the date and time for final inspection, or better yet complete the inspection with them when they hand in the keys. Go through the property and diligently note any damage to the property that goes beyond normal wear and tear. Twenty-one days is only three weeks to assess damage and make the repairs and it can pass in the blink of an eye for a landlord who may not be on top of their properties.
Be sure to get an itemized list of repairs completed and postmarked by the twenty-first day! Failure to follow this rule can result in penalties of double damages and attorney’s fees. No one wants to have to pay what could be more than one months rent back to a tenant who damaged their property and then be responsible in their individual capacity for the repairs to the property!
Remember each landlord tenant situation is different and this blog is not intended to serve as legal advice. If you have a legal issue you should always consult with your attorney or property management company for direction.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or post a question in the comments section of the blog.