It is a really great idea to start a rental file for each place you rent from. A rental file is where you can keep your records for your past and current rental history. This file can help in case of questions of deposit, lease disagreements, really any problem or concern that could occur while you are renting. A good rental file can not only protect you and your deposit, but also help you provide evidence in court if necessary.
Your Rental File Should Contain:
Lease and all other related paperwork: Keep a copy of everything you signed.
A rental log: Use a simple notebook to write all dates and times you contacted or tried to contact your landlord; make a note of any discussion. Logs are a useful permanent record of how the landlord did or did not respond to problems.
Check-in and Check-out Checklist: This is proof of the condition of the apartment when you move in and out. Keep copies and send the originals to the landlord by certified mail with return receipt.
Letters to or from the landlord: Make any complaints or serious communications in writing and keep copies on file. All verbal requests should be followed up in writing with copies in your file.
Reports: Keep copies of building inspection reports, police reports and reports from other government agencies.
Photographs: Photos may be the evidence you need to document a repair! Always have them signed by a certified witness.
The landlord must give you at least two days’ written notice first. The notice must state:
- the date/s of entry
- either the exact time of entry OR a period of time during which the entry will happen, including the earliest and latest possible times
- a phone number for you to call to object to the entry date/time or to ask to reschedule
The landlord must enter at a reasonable time of day.
Example: Nine in the morning is reasonable. Nine at night probably is not reasonable. The landlord only has to give one day’s notice to enter to show the unit to existing or possible new tenants. You cannot refuse the landlord’s entry to your unit to repair, improve or service the unit.
In the case of an emergency or abandonment, the landlord can enter the unit without notice.
Feeling in the dark about what your landlord is required to do and what responsibilities you have as a tenant? You don’t have to be! The Washington State Residential Landlord Tenant Act describes both of these topics in detail, but we’ve summarized them below:
Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, the TENANT is required to:
- Pay rent and any agreed upon utilities.
- Comply with all city, county, and state regulations.
- Keep the rental unit clean and sanitary.
- Properly dispose of garbage.
- Pay for fumigation of infestations you cause.
- Properly operate utilities and appliances.
- Not intentionally or carelessly damage the dwelling.
- Use fans/windows in bathroom to prevent mold/mildew damage.
- Not engage in or allow any gang-related or criminal activity.
- Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
- Restore the rental to the same condition as when you moved in (except for normal wear-and-tear).
Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, the LANDLORD is required to:
- Give you the name and address of the landlord/property manager.
- Maintain the rental so that it does not violate state and local codes in ways that endanger your health and safety.
- Maintain structural components (ex: roofs, floors, chimneys).
- Keep your rental reasonably weather-tight.
- Provide adequate locks and keys.
- Provide garbage cans and arrange for removal of garbage (except for single-family dwellings).
- Provide utilities to supply heat, electricity, and hot/cold water.
- Keep common areas (ex: lobbies, halls) reasonably clean and free of hazards.
- Control pests before you move in and continue to control infestations except when that infestation is caused by you.
- Make repairs to keep your rental in the same condition as when you moved in (except for normal wear-and-tear).
- Keep utility systems and appliances in good repair.
- Provide working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you move in (although you are responsible for maintaining those detectors).
Wanna talk to a lawyer in person?
Law Advocates provides a free consultation service (first-come, first-serve) to low-income renters each Friday. Consultation can include: information about tenant-landlord laws; document review and advice; representation; and negotiation with landlord’s attorney. For information on this weekly clinic, click here.
Fair housing laws protect you from being discriminated again because of your:
- Race or color
- National origin
- Religion or creed
- Family Status (having children or being pregnant)
- Veteran or Military Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Marital Status (being single, married or divorced)
In Bellingham, you are additionally protected from discrimination based on:
- Source of Income
If you have a disability, you also have the right to make a request for reasonable modifications and reasonable accommodations to your living environment including having a service, assistance, or emotional support animal.
Visit the City of Bellingham’s Fair Housing Page for more information or to file a complaint about fair housing or disability accommodations.
Fair housing resources:
When you move off campus, you may face new or different safety concerns, but your access to campus and community resources remains the same. If you have experienced sexual violence and need support and resources, please visit Western’s Together Against Sexual Violence Website for resources and reporting options.
Western’s Department of Safety and University Police have compiled some really helpful tips regarding home safety. For further information on staying safe contact Bellingham Police Crime Prevention Officers at 360.676.6924