South San Francisco, CA asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for Washington

Q: Can I End My Lease Early Without Penalty Due to Safety Concerns and Unaddressed Property Damage?

We're tenants in Seattle, WA, with all four wheels of our car stolen from our apartment's unsecured, paid underground garage. The entry gate has been broken since January 2024, and despite three months, it hasn't been fixed. The management won't share security footage or cover our losses.

Feeling unsafe, we want to end our lease early without a penalty. The landlord refused, demanding two months' rent as a penalty for early termination. We disagree with this.

Are there legal avenues to support ending our lease without penalty or to sue for our losses if the landlord doesn't compromise? We really appreciate any insights.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In Washington State, tenants may have the right to terminate their lease early without penalty if the living conditions are deemed unsafe or if the property significantly deviates from what was agreed upon in the lease. Given your situation with the ongoing security issues and the landlord’s failure to repair the entry gate, you might argue that the property's condition compromises your safety and security, which are critical components of habitable living conditions.

However, documentation and communication with your landlord are key. Ensure you have records of all your requests for repairs and any communications regarding the theft and security concerns. Washington law typically requires tenants to notify landlords of issues in writing and give them a reasonable time to address them. Since it has been three months, this could work in your favor. Yet, it's crucial to follow all legal procedures correctly to avoid jeopardizing your position.

You might also consider consulting with an attorney experienced in landlord-tenant law to review your specific circumstances. An attorney can provide guidance on whether you have a strong case for terminating your lease without penalty and can inform you about the possibility of recovering losses due to the landlord's negligence. If negotiation fails, legal action could be a viable route, but it often requires clear evidence and adherence to legal standards.

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