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What Safety Standards Do Property Owners Have to Have in Place in Washington?
Posted in Personal Injury on August 6, 2023
In Washington, property owners have a legal duty to ensure their premises are safe, especially if they rent out their property to others. Whether it’s a residential rental or a business space, landlords and property owners must adhere to specific state standards that protect the welfare of tenants and visitors to prevent a potential premises liability case.
Legal Requirements for Landlords in Washington
According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 59.18.060, Washington law mandates landlords to uphold several safety and maintenance standards. These requirements include:
- Adherence to Applicable Codes and Regulations: The owner’s premises should comply with all local and state building and health codes. Any non-compliance that jeopardizes tenant safety or health must be promptly addressed.
- Structural Integrity: All structural elements must be kept in good condition, ensuring they are functional and safe for tenants. These include roofs, walls, chimneys, floors, foundations, and other similar components.
- Maintenance of Shared Spaces: Common areas, whether it’s a hallway in an apartment building or a shared laundry facility, should be maintained in a clean, sanitary condition. It’s also essential that these spaces are safe and free from potential hazards, such as loose floor tiles or faulty wiring, which might lead to accidents or fires.
Implied Warranty of Habitability
The implied warranty of habitability ensures that rental properties offer basic, essential services for tenants. This warranty covers essential utilities like heat, running water, functional plumbing, electricity, and garbage disposal. It also refers to protection from natural elements like snow and rain, ensuring the tenant’s property remains safe and undamaged.
Should a landlord fail to provide these necessities, tenants have the right to withhold rent until rectifications are made. Alternatively, tenants can undertake repairs on their own, deducting the cost from the rent.
Duties That All Property Owners Must Uphold
Every property owner in Washington, not just landlords, has an overarching responsibility to ensure that their premises are secure and free from hazards. If an accident happens, the owner could be liable for the victim’s damages.
The specific duty of care owed by the property owner, however, varies based on the visitor’s status. There are three categories of visitors:
- Invitees: Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. This category includes individuals like customers in a grocery store, who are invited onto the property for business purposes. Property owners must exercise ordinary care in maintaining safe conditions, regularly inspect the property for hazards, and take action to rectify them.
- Licensees: Licensees are those who enter the property with the owner’s implied consent. Social guests visiting a friend, for example, fall under this category. The responsibilities toward licensees include ensuring the property is safe from known hazards and informing the licensee about any dangerous conditions.
- Trespassers: These are individuals who have no legal right to be on the property. Someone ignoring a “No Trespassing” sign and entering a property without consent is considered a trespasser. While property owners owe the least duty of care to trespassers, they cannot intentionally cause harm or act with willful and wanton disregard for their safety.
If you suffered a personal injury due to a property owner’s failure to uphold safety hazards, contact a Washington premises liability attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you pursue a legal claim against the owner and recover fair compensation for your losses, helping you seek the justice that you deserve.