My mother was in town for a pre-Christmas visit. My mantel was decorated with glittering deer and twinkling lights. My Christmas tree was placed directly in front of the picture window with the hand-painted, glass-blown ornaments hanging delicately in front of the cheap, plastic gold and silver balls. My mother brought all her goodness, mercy, girdles, pantyhose, slips and Jesus from Oklahoma City all the way to my home in Eatonville. Then, the septic tank stops working. It was Friday night. Oh, crap — pun intended.

I called my landlord. She was in Texas visiting her mother for the holidays and recovering from a recent surgery. I wanted the problem fixed right away.

She preferred to wait until Monday. Meanwhile, we both were frustrated and couldn’t enjoy our visit with our mothers. Who was right? The crazy tenant who demands things be fixed immediately or the lackadaisical landlord who can put it off for a few days? It turns out, there’s a law for that found in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 59.

“Well, look who the wind blew in,” is a common greeting we use in the flat plains of Oklahoma to greet a visitor to our home.

Along with my family of 5 (three little girls, my husband and myself) migrating from Federal Way, the wind blew in 11,875 new residents to Pierce county in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Of the more than 3,100 counties in the nation, Pierce County ranked No.1 in the nation for the net increase of people moving in from another county in the U.S.

The Census Bureau calculates the data by adding the number of new residents moving in and subtracting the number of people who left—it’s called “net domestic migration.”

In South Pierce County, more people are in search of affordable housing including rental properties. If you are a landlord or a tenant, here are a list of the most common violations and how to avoid them.

For Renters:

1) Do not withhold or stop paying rent. Many of the legal solutions renters have at their disposal require tenants are current on their rent payments.

2) Notify the landlord immediately and in writing when there is a problem. Depending on the problem, landlords have between 24 hours and 10 days to fix it. The clock starts ticking only after you have notified the landlord in writing. According to RCW 59.18.070, landlords have:

a. Not more than twenty-four hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or is imminently hazardous to life;

b.  Not more than seventy-two hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord; and

c.  Not more than ten days in all other cases.

3) If the problem is not fixed within the specific time frames, tenants can terminate the rental agreement upon written notice to the landlord. Tenants are also entitled to pro-rata of any pre-paid rent for that month and within twenty-one days the landlord shall give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.

For landlords:

1) If tenants stop paying rent and abandon the property. Renters are responsible for the lesser of either: the entire rent due for the remainder of the term; or all rent accrued during the period reasonably necessary to re-rent the premises at a fair rental price, plus the difference between the fair rental price and the rent agreed to in the prior agreement, plus actual costs incurred by the landlord in rerenting the premises together with statutory court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees.

2) There are 10 duties of a tenant.

a. Keep the premises clean.

b. Properly dispose of trash.

c. Properly use and operate all electrical, gas, heating, plumbing and other fixtures and appliances supplied by the landlord.

d. Not intentionally or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the structure or dwelling including the facilities, equipment, furniture, furnishings, and appliances.

e. Not permit a nuisance or common waste.

f. Not engage in drug-related activity at the rental premises.

g. Maintain the smoke detection device in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, including the replacement of batteries.

h. Not engage in any activity that is imminently hazardous to other people, including assault and unlawful use of a firearm.

i. Not engage in any gang-related activity at the premises.

3) Violation of the duties of a tenant. Renters have thirty days to fix the violation after written notice by the landlord specifying the problem. If the problem is not fixed, the landlord may enter the dwelling unit and cause the work to be done and submit an itemized bill of the actual and reasonable cost of repair, to be payable on the next date when rent is due or immediately if the rental agreement has terminated.

a. A landlord may immediately start the eviction process for drug, criminal or gang-related activity on the premises.

4) Eviction. Eviction or removal of tenants requires a court order and generally takes at least three weeks. Choose your tenants legally and wisely.

a. It shall be unlawful for the landlord to remove or exclude from the premises the tenant thereof except under a court order so authorizing.
As for me and my landlord, we had a few spicy exchanges. Her husband and the plumber came and took a look over the weekend. The problem was resolved promptly on Monday morning. I was satisfied and she was relieved. I think we both learned that a little grace and mercy goes along way. I can thank my mother for that.