Houston, TX asked in Landlord - Tenant for Washington

Q: In Washington, does RCW 59.18.060 (6) mean my landlord has to give me a key rather than relying on an electronic lock?

I recently moved into an Essex apartment in Seattle, Washington; the door has a SmartRent Device electronic lock which has a keyhole, but I have been given no key, and it is management policy not to give anyone keys except to fulfill disability accommodations.

RCW 59.18.060 includes the line "(6) Provide reasonably adequate locks and furnish keys to the tenant;"

Does this language indicate I must be given a physical key rather than relying on a number code or app integration as keys?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brent Bowden
Brent Bowden
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Lynnwood, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: I am not aware of any caselaw answering the question directly. The statute likely predates the prevalence of electronic locks and codes, but it certainly raises issues if they only give you a code and not a physical key. If the power goes out/battery dies/tech malfunctions, etc. Not to mention it makes it a lot easier for a landlord to lock you out of your apartment illegally.

RCW 59.18.060 (https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18.060) and RCW 59.18.070 (https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18.070) do provide a remedy if a landlord does not comply with the requirement to give you a key pursuant to RCW 59.18.060, but I would definitely suggest consulting with an attorney. There is a risk in using those remedies. Namely, if a court finds you used them wrongfully, the rent you withheld could be the basis for an eviction. I am not aware of any clear statutory authority or case law that makes it clear an electronic code is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of a "key." And you can certainly imagine a court ruling that a code or password is an electronic key.

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