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Significant Changes in Washington’s Landlord-Tenant Laws (2019)

Posted Friday, May 17, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has recently signed Senate Bill 5600, which makes significant changes to the existing Residential Landlord Tenant Act (“RLTA”) in Washington as codified in RCW 59.18. The changes will impact the rights for both landlords and tenants. Landlords will need to adopt new forms and adjust certain practices. This new act goes into effect July 27, 2019.

It is important to note this revised law only applies to residential tenancies, and not commercial tenancies. Commercial landlord tenant eviction proceedings are governed by RCW 59.12, which remains unchanged.

This article is intended to summarize the changes in the law only. The full text of the new law can be found here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/5600-S.PL.pdf#page=1

14 Day Notice now required for failure to pay rent

Under the prior law, evictions based on tenant’s failure to pay rent were initiated by first providing a 3-day pay or vacate notice. This short timeframe was in place to expedite the landlord’s ability to regain possession of the premises where the tenant was not paying rent. Starting July 27, 2019, landlords will need to provide defaulting tenants with a 14-day pay or vacate notice. The language required for the new notice is spelled out in the statute and the Washington Attorney General will post sample forms on its website.

Application of payments

Landlords will now be required to apply payment by tenant to any rent owing, before applying it towards any fees (including attorney’s fees), damages, costs, or other charges. Previously, landlords were free to apply the payment however the landlord wanted to.

Stay of Writ of Restitution

Those who are familiar with landlord tenant law and evictions will know that a “writ of restitution” is the document authorized by the clerk of the court, which authorizes the eviction of the tenant. Under the new law, where a landlord obtains a judgment authorizing the eviction of a tenant for nonpayment of rent, the tenant may apply at any time prior to the actual eviction to stay the execution of the writ of restitution “upon good cause shown”. The burden of proof is on the tenant. Any stay of the writ of restitution shall not exceed 90 days. The statute requires the judge to consider the following factors in deciding whether to grant a stay of the writ:

• Tenant’s willful or intentional default or intentional failure to pay rent;

• Whether nonpayment of rent was caused by exigent circumstances that were beyond tenant’s control and are not likely to recur;

• The tenant’s ability to timely pay the judgment;

• Whether the tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the rental agreement;

• Hardship on the tenant if evicted;

• Conduct related to other notices served within the last six months.

Note also that a tenant who has received 3 or more notices to pay or vacate in the preceding 12 month period is not entitled to seek a stay of a writ of restitution which has been issued for failure to pay rent.

If a stay is granted, the court may impose a payment plan for the tenant, which must be paid in 90 days or less.

New Eviction Summons

The law completely revamps the form and language included in an eviction summons.

Award of Landlord’s attorney fees against tenants limited

If a landlord has received a judgment authorizing eviction of a tenant, the court may order the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees to the landlord; however no such award of attorneys’ fees is authorize where (a) the judgment is entered by default (i.e., tenant failed to appear); or (b) the total amount of rent awarded is equal to or less than 2 months of lease payments or $1,200, whichever is greater.

Mitigation funds

Under certain circumstances the landlord and/or tenant may apply to receive mitigation funds from the landlord mitigation program established under RCW 43.51.605(1)(c). Application for such funds is initiated by filling out a form provided by the Washington Attorney General’s office.

Conclusion

The revisions to the RLTA will significantly impact the landlord tenant relationship and the proceedings required to initiate an eviction. For questions about the revisions to the Act or how, as a landlord, to ensure compliance with the Act, please contact managing member, Chris Thayer at (206) 805-1494 or CThayer@PivotalLawGroup.com

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Estate Planning Legal Update: WA State Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Human Composting As Alternative to Traditional Burial

Posted Thursday, April 25, 2019 by Pivotal Law Group

Washington State’s legislature recently passed a bill (Senate Bill 5001) that would allow human composting as an alternative to burial or cremation.

The bill legalizes disposal of human remains via “natural organic reduction,” which is the accelerated decomposition of human remains into soil. The process transforms human remains into soil over only a few weeks. The bill also legalizes a similar process, “alkaline hydrolysis,” the reduction of human remains using heat, pressure, water, and base chemical agents. The bill allows persons to establish their desire to have their remains composted through a valid written document signed in the presence of witnesses. The new law also establishes regulation of human composting providers.

The new bill emphasizes: “A person has the right to control the disposition of his or her own remains without the pre-death or post-death consent of another person.”

The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor, and will take effect May 1, 2010.

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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Federal Civil Rights Laws Protect LGBT Employees

Posted Monday, April 22, 2019 by Pivotal Law Group

Federal law generally prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender. An open question has been whether discrimination “because of gender” includes discrimination against LGBT employees. Some courts have said yes, reasoning that at least some discrimination against gay or transgender employees boils down to discrimination on the basis of failing to conform to perceived traditional gender roles; other courts have gone the other way.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it is taking up a trio of cases that will decide the question. In two cases, employees sued their employers alleging they were let go because they were gay. In the third, a transgender woman sued her employer for terminating her for failing to conform to what the employer characterized as “God’s commands.”

These decisions will be significant for both workers and employers because they will clarify whether LGBT workers are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

Notably, there is no question that Washington State employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Washington State’s Law Against Discrimination explicitly protects employees and others from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Robert Mueller's Report

Posted Friday, April 19, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

Link Text

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Case Law Update: Roller Coaster Injury and Res Ipsa Loquitur

Posted Thursday, April 4, 2019 by Christopher L. Thayer

In Brugh v. Fun-Tastic Rides Co., (51055-3, March 26, 2019) the Washington Court of Appeals (Division II) recently addressed application of the Res Ipsa Loquitur (latin for “the thing speaks for itself) doctrine in the context of an injury suffered on a roller coaster ride.

Fun-Tastic operated a roller coaster at the Washington State Fair. Brugh rode the roller coaster and described the last turn on the ride as a “sudden and violent jolt”. As a result of this jolt, she struck both sides of her head on the roller coaster’s safety harness. She lost hearing in one ear and went to the doctor, who noted bleeding from both ears. Over the next few weeks she developed severe head and neck pain and was ultimately diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury and a subdural hematoma.

Brugh subsequently sued Fun-Tastic for negligence seeking an award of damages for her injuries. The trial court, after reconsideration, granted Fun-Tastic’s request and dismissed Brugh’s lawsuit on summary judgment. Brugh appealed.

In an action for negligence, a plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) the existence of a duty, (2) breach of that duty, (3) resulting injury/damages, and (4) proximate cause.

The concept of Res Ipsa Loquitur “provides an inference as to defendant’s breach of duty”. Curtis v. Lein, 169 Wn. 2d 884 (2010). A plaintiff may rely on the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur to establish an inference of a breach of the applicable duty if three elements are satisfied: (1) the accident or occurrence which caused plaintiff injury would not ordinarily happen in the absence of negligence, (2) the instrumentality or agency which caused plaintiff’s injury was in defendant’s exclusive control, and (3) plaintiff did not contribute to the accident or occurrence. In the Brugh case, the parties only disputed the first element – whether the accident or occurrence would not ordinarily happen in the absence of negligence.

This element of the doctrine is satisfied in any of the three scenarios:

(1) When the act causing the injury is so palpably negligent that it may be inferred as a matter of law … ; (2) when the general experience and observation of mankind teaches that the result would not be expected without negligence; or (3) when proof by experts in an esoteric field creates and inference that negligence caused the injuries.

The Court of Appeals found Brugh’s injuries were not of a type to be generally expected while riding a roller coaster, reasoning:

We recognize that certain injuries are to be expected while riding roller coasters. For example, general experience teaches that people may receive minor bumps to their head from the safety harness of a roller coaster during a ride. General experience teaches that people may receive minor whiplash while riding a roller coaster. However, general experience teaches that a subdural hematoma brain bleed does not ordinarily happen while strapped in to a roller coaster in the absence of negligence.

Plaintiff apparently had no evidence of any specific defect or malfunction of the roller coaster. The court struggled with whether significant injury, in and of itself, could be sufficient to raise the inference of the Res Ipsa Loquitur doctrine. Ultimately, the court concluded it did and reverse the trial court sending the case back for further proceedings.

If you have a question about a potential personal injury claim, please contact managing member Chris Thayer at (206) 805-1494 or CThayer@PivotalLawGroup.com.

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DISCLAIMER: This blog is not legal advice. This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice under any circumstances, nor should it be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. The information on this blog is a general statement of the law and may not be up to date, accurate or applicable to your specific circumstances. Prior success in litigation is not an indication of future results; each case is unique and past results cannot predict future outcomes.

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