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Know Your Rights » Housing Discrimination » Domestic Violence & Harassment

Domestic Violence & Harassment FAQ

I broke my lease due to domestic violence and followed the legal process, but my landlord sent me a bill for damages to the unit my abuser caused. What can I do?

Under RCW 59.18.575 a survivor of domestic violence cannot be charged for damages caused by the abuser. Write a letter to the landlord disputing the charges and include a copy of the law. If the landlord sends you to collections, send the same dispute letter and laws to the collection agency. See Collection Agencies for more information.

What is considered domestic violence?

Domestic violence is often not easy to understand or to define. The Landlord-Tenant Act defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or psychological) used by someone to control an intimate partner. It is physical harm, injury or assault, or the fear of imminent physical harm, injury or assault, between family or household members, past or current intimate partners, or people who have a child together (RCW 26.50.101). See Definitions for more information.

I do not have a protection order filed yet but I have a domestic violence advocate. Does the law consider them a qualified third party if they write a letter to help break my lease to flee my abuser?

Tenants needing to break their lease for these reasons must provide the landlord with either a valid order of protection or a report from a qualified third party regarding the incident. “Qualified third party” can include law enforcement, health care professionals, state court employees, mental health professionals, clergy members, or domestic violence/crime prevention advocates. See a sample form and more information at Landlord-Tenant Issues for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and/or Stalking

What are some resources and shelters for domestic violence survivors?

You can call Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.562.6025 or the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for more information and resources.

What can I do if my landlord is the perpetrator?

If your landlord or apartment manager is the perpetrator or abuser, you have the right to break your lease and vacate the unit without having to pay rent remaining on the lease. You must obtain a valid protection order or report from a qualified third party and deliver it within 7 days of vacating the unit. You can deliver it by mail, fax, or personal delivery from a friend or relative. This record of report must not contain the name of the abuser, but if the landlord requests the name, and the abuser was an employee of the landlord, the qualified third party must supply it to them. See RCW 59.18.575, or Washington Law Help’s Landlord-Tenant Issues for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and/or Stalking.

Do I need to give my landlord notice before I leave because of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, or unlawful harassment?

Tenants must notify the landlord that they will be moving out within 90 days of the specific domestic violence incident. The 90-day time frame specifically refers to the date of the incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or unlawful harassment and not the date the order for protection was granted, nor the date the incident was reported.

If I break my lease because of domestic violence, am I entitled to my deposit back?

Tenants who break their lease because of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or unlawful harassment will be entitled to an accounting for their deposit within 14 days and a refund of the deposit, minus any damages to the unit beyond normal wear and tear (survivors cannot be held responsible for damages caused to the unit as a result of the incident of domestic violence). For more information, see Deposits.