Roommate Consideration

 Some basic information about roommate considerations. Click the grey boxes below to expand and view the information. 

Roommates: Positives and Negatives

Trying to decide whether to live alone, live with friends, or live with new people?  You should have open discussions with anyone you're interested in living with. It is better to get any concerns out in the open before a lease is signed or an agreement is made.

A roommate relationship is more than a living arrangement. Roommates can have emotional as well as financial effects on each other's lives. There are many laws to define the tenant-landlord relationship, but none deal specifically with roommate relationships. (Though it is possible under some circumstances for one roommate to be the landlord of the other(s).)

It's important to choose a roommate wisely and to communicate, so you can work out any problems that might occur. If you arrange to share an apartment with a roommate you don't know, you might ask the landlord to let you sign separate leases so each of you are responsible only for your share of rent and any damages you cause.

Also beware, your best friend may not be the best choice for a roommate. Living together could strain your friendship if you find you disagree about cleaning, parties, paying bills, or other issues that arise in a shared apartment. Negotiating a compromise, subletting, or sticking it out can become very difficult.

There are many pros and cons to both living with a roommate and by yourself. Living by yourself will give you the chance to enjoy solitude and release the potential burdens of living with others. Living with others may help you save money by sharing expenses, such as rent, utilities, and telephone.

Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate

  • What is your class schedule?
  • What are your study habits?
  • What are your eating habits?
  • What do you expect for housekeeping/ cleanliness?
  • Are overnight guests okay?
  • Are you okay with borrowing/sharing items? Which ones?
  • Are you okay with smoking inside/outside? Are parties acceptable? When? How late?
  • How will you handle paying bills?
  • Are pets acceptable? What type? How many?
  • How much study time do you need?
  • What level of quiet do you like during study hours?
  • What type of eating arrangements do you prefer (cooking at home, eating out)?
  • Is cooking smelly foods a problem?
  • Is use of alcohol in apartment okay? When?
  • Is coming home drunk okay? When?
  • Do you use drugs?
  • How do you plan handle roommate confrontations?
  • What is your expected level of privacy? (entering rooms, sharing rooms)
  • Does the person with the bigger room need to compensate the others?
  • Are you comfortable lending money?
  • What are your usual desired bedtimes/wake-up times?
  • While sleeping, what is your desired level of noise? Radio/TV on?

Preventing Problems

You and your roommate should discuss creating a roommate agreement or contract and determine your expectations before committing to living together. Here are suggestions of what to discuss with prospective roommates before you sign a lease:

  • Cleaning: How often should the place be cleaned and how will the work be shared?
  • Privacy: How much privacy does everyone want and where do they get it?
  • Guests: Will overnight guests be allowed? When and how often can guests visit?
  • Parties: Agree on how often, how many people and how late can parties run?
  • Shared personal belongings: Will food, clothing, CD’s, toothpaste and other belongings be shared?
  • Bills: How will bills be divided among roommates and who will be responsible for payment?

Solving Minor Problems

Common problems are personality and lifestyle clashes. The best way to deal with these is to negotiate one on one with your roommate. Identify the problems, what causes them, and what each roommate can do to solve them. Put any agreement you reach in writing and post it prominently-such as on the refrigerator. If necessary, seek mediation.

Another solution is subletting, which is when you move out and find someone else to live in the apartment and pay your lease. But subletting can be difficult, especially if roommates won't cooperate in finding a sublessee. In addition you usually need the landlord's permission to sublet your apartment or house.

Solving Serious Problems

Serious roommate problems are those that threaten your health, safety or substantially deprive you of full use of your apartment. The first step to solving such problems is to ask roommates to stop the problem behavior.

Offer to negotiate and work out a solution. If they ignore you or negotiation does not work, take a more formal approach:

  • Document the problem.
  • Keep a complete record of roommate conflicts in your rental log.
  • Include specific dates and notes on what was said or what happened.
  • Use friends as witnesses.
  • An important step is to write a letter to your roommate. It should be an account of problems that have occurred and steps you have taken to resolve them. Demand an end to unacceptable behavior and threaten further action if such behavior continues. Present the letter in person and keep a copy. Writing a letter to someone you live with may seem ridiculously formal or embarrassing, but it may be the best way to communicate your viewpoint.


Parking on campus is somewhat limited and can be an expensive option for some students and faculty. Fortunately, public transportation available in Pullman is often a great option whether you are looking to get to and from class, over to Moscow for shopping or a ride to an airport.

If you're looking for ways to get around during the holidays, the Dean of Students offers a Holiday Break Bus. More information can be found by clicking here

Pullman is served by the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport located 2 miles east of Pullman and 4 miles west of Moscow, Idaho. Horizon Air offers four flights daily from Pullman-Moscow to Seattle and four flights daily from Seattle to Pullman-Moscow. Shuttle service to Spokane International Airport is available.

Major bus routes, including Greyhound, pass through Pullman. Pullman is also served by Pullman Transit which provides service for many students of the university who do not live on campus and also provides service to the residents of Pullman. Students can get on the bus by showing their student ID card, as all students pay a fee for use of the bus system which is included in their fees when attending WSU.

Please click WSU Parking and Transportation for more information about parking on campus at WSU.

The 6 R's of Renting


Will you move off-campus, stay in the dorms, or move to a Greek House

  • Must be 18 to sign a lease
  • Consider price and convenience
  • Apartment – variable costs, cook own food, more responsibility, more freedom
  • Dorms – consistent cost, food on campus, no need to leave campus, less freedom

Who will you live with?

  • How will you determine if someone is compatible and will make a good roommate?
  • List of questions to ask a potential roommate
  • Parties, dirty dishes, bathrooms, cleanliness, drug use/habits, smoking

How many roommates do you want?

  • Sharing costs vs. on your own
  • Will you rent a house or apartment?

Find out the budget of the group members

  • Other costs besides rent
  • Determine your price range

What features are required vs. optional for roommates?

  • What features would be nice to have?
  • Define your priorities – be realistic


  • Do roommates feel strongly about having pets?
  • Will pets limit your housing options?
  • Pets fee(s)/deposits
  • Don’t sneak in pets – fine(s)


  • Roommate agreements – Payments


Ask around

  • Which companies should you work with or some you should not

Drive around

  • Signs may indicate which companies manage which properties

When should you start looking for a place?

  • Some property managers start leasing as early as January
  • If interested in a place, call and ask about leasing dates

Where to look

  • Most rental agencies have web pages
  • Craigslist
  • Whitman County Landlord & Tenant Association
  • Chamber of Commerce – Pullman WA
  • Evergreen
  • – etc.
  • Housing Fair

Track information about places that interest you

  • Agency name/manager and contact information
  • Property address, features, rent cost
  • Deposit amounts
  • When available
  • What is included in rent and what is not – Electric, cable, internet, trash, etc.

What is the application process?

  • Application fee and how much?
  • Each agency may have a different process
  • What determines if you get a rental unit?
  • When will you know?
  • Cosigners?

Gather information before you start

  • Have names, phone numbers of past rentals, jobs, references
  • Drivers License, Social Security Number, Student ID #, car license, bank account number


Read the entire lease and all attachments before signing

  • For your protection, only sign a written lease
  • Is the lease a Joint and Several Liability or is each roommate signing own lease
  • Ask questions
  • Do not sign lease if things seem wrong – terminology

Provisions that should be included in every lease

  • Beginning and ending dates
  • Rent amount and due date(s)
  • Late fee(s) if any, and other fees
  • Deposit amounts and what it covers, and is it refundable?
  • What bank and account (Trust Account Name) is your deposit kept in


  • Leases of more than one year need a notary public to witness the signing
  • Get a copy of the signed lease
  • Create and store files of important papers regarding the rental


Consider when the lease ends and new move in date

  • Do you require storage? Ask landlords about storage
  • Would you prefer to move in early? Ask landlord
  • Ask landlord about adjusting unit – Paint, Windows, removing doors, etc.

If property manager is collecting a deposit, a copy of the condition of the unit is required to be provided at lease signing

Move in – Use a check in sheet to document the condition of the unit as you move in. Sign and date it, get a copy

  • Take pictures of the condition before you move in
  • Get renters insurance to cover your belongings. Landlords only insure building.
  • Report needed repairs. Send it in writing if a phone call does not initiate the repairs.

Realities of Being a Renter

  • Pay your rent on time
  • Respect the property, return it in same condition as when you received it
  • Behave like an adult
  • Figure out responsibilities – payments, decorations, chores, etc.
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Take out your trash – recycle
  • Take responsibility for you and your guests
  • Park only where permitted
  • Don’t let your roommates ruin your rental record
  • Keep yourself safe
  • Call police if neighbor is too noisy or out of hand
  • Use available resources if you have problems with landlord, roommate, or anyone. ASWSU legal services, Health and Wellness, Whitman County Landlord Tenant Association, etc.

City Regulations

Some basic information about a few provisions of the Pullman City Code may be of interest to you. Copies of the Pullman City Code are available for your reference and more detailed examination at the Pullman City Hall, Neill Public Library, Holland Library in the reference section, and the city's Web page.

Noise Regulation

(Pullman City Code, Chap. 8.80)
Contact: Police operations commander for information - 509-334-0802. For noise complaints/violations - 509-332-2521.

Noise is regulated in the city of Pullman as a nuisance 24 hours a day. Regulated sound includes radios, stereos, televisions, car radios, electronic musical instruments, construction equipment, voices and most other noise sources. The regulation covers a twenty-four hour period that begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 a.m. the following day. The procedure of enforcement is as follows: A citizen must complain to initiate the process. When a citizen complains, a police officer will determine whether the noise violates the decibel limits or is otherwise a public disturbance. The police officer may give the violator a reasonable time to comply before issuing a notice of infraction or immediately issue a notice of infraction. No additional noise, of any type, can disturb persons within the twenty-four hour period (from 12:01 a.m. until midnight) of the original complaint or an additional notice of infraction may be issued and a mandatory court appearance may be required. If the violator was warned about a loud stereo at 10 a.m. and then was contacted about loud voices at 11 p.m., the violator would be issued a notice of infraction. If the identity of the person responsible for the noise cannot be established at the time of the noise, the owner; or any tenant (if it is a rented or leased premises); or an officer of the responsible living group or association, (if it is a living group premises,) will be issued a notice of infraction whether or not that person was at the premises at the time of the noise incident.

A first violation during a year period, beginning August 1 and ending July 31 may be forfeited for a cost of $100. A second or subsequent violation will require a mandatory court appearance. If the violator is found guilty of a second or subsequent violation, the court shall fine the violator no less than $500. If the violator fails to appear in response to the notice of infraction, the violator is found guilty, fined the maximum penalty, and, if not paid, the matter is turned over to a collection agency. This may result in credit problems for the violator. [See also nuisance party regulations.]

Alcohol Enforcement


Contact: Pullman Police Dept. 509-332-2521. 

The city of Pullman actively enforces state and city laws relative to alcohol violations. Although most people are familiar with liquor laws against drunk driving, minors in possession, and serving minors, it should be emphasized that opening or consuming liquor [hard liquor, beer or wine] in a public place is also a violation of the law.

Pullman City Code states:

5.55.010 Alcohol Consumption Or Open Container In Public – Prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to consume any beer, wine or any other intoxicating liquor, or have in his or her possession any opened containers or receptacles containing any beer, wine or any other intoxicating liquor on any sidewalks, streets or public place within the city or in any vehicle parked or moving on public streets, or at any other place within the city other than a private residence, or upon premises licensed for the sale and consumption of beer or liquor or upon premises whereon beer or intoxicating liquor is sold by a license under the laws of the state.

5.55.020 Violation – Penalty. A first violation of this chapter shall be a class 1 infraction, punishable by a penalty of not less than $250.00. For each repeat violation of this chapter, the penalty shall be not less than $500.00.

The Revised Code of Washington 66.44.100 states:

Opening or consuming liquor in public place—Penalty. Except as permitted by this title, no person shall open the package containing liquor or consume liquor in a public place. Every person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a class 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW.

No alcohol is allowed in Pullman city parks unless an appropriate permit has been issued by City Hall.

Parking Regulation

(Pullman City Code, Chapters 12.10, 12.15, 12.20, 12.25, 12.30, and 17.105)
Contact: for questions code enforcement officer— 509-334-0802. For complaints – 509-332-2521.

Parking space is limited in most cities, including the city of Pullman. This is especially true near the Washington State University campus. Parking regulations have been enacted by the City Council with the intent of being fair to those who need to park on the City’s streets and still protect the safety and general welfare of the residents. Unless otherwise posted, vehicles, trailers, and recreational vehicles may not be left parked on public streets and alleys in the city of Pullman for more than seven days (168 consecutive hours) without being used for their intended purpose. For example, automobiles must be driven, trailers must be towed, and floats must be used in a parade or similar use in order to qualify as being used for their intended purpose. Unattached campers and canopies may not be stored or detached from a vehicle and left on public streets or alleys for any period of time.

Parking regulations in Pullman generally are consistent with those in effect for the rest of the state. For example, anywhere in Washington, including Pullman, vehicles cannot be parked on sidewalks, planting strips (area between the sidewalk and curb), blocking driveways, in yellow zones, or in fire zones (areas needed for emergency access to buildings, fire hydrants, or fire equipment. Such areas include, but are not limited to areas with adjacent curbs or rails painted yellow). Pullman City Code, Chapter 12.10.092, also prohibits parking vehicles on front lawns.

Some public parking lots and streets prohibit parking between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. These are usually downtown and are posted. This allows for regular street sweeping. For snow removal and street repair purposes, the city public works department may at times temporarily close some streets in order to facilitate the completion of snow removal or repairs. In such instances, temporary “No Parking Signs” may be erected on relatively short notice. A map of parking zones may be viewed on the city Website following the drop-down menus to Departments/Police/Organization/Parking. City-issued parking permits for residents are for sale through Pullman Police Department for some areas near campus, where posted for residential parking permits. WSU Parking at 509-335-7275 (509-335-PARK) has information about on-campus permits.

Parking at WSU

Contact: WSU Parking at 509-335-7275 (509-335-PARK)

WSU has its own parking rules and regulations which can be found online. Information about on-campus parking can be obtained from Parking Services here.

Animal Control Regulation

(City Code, Title 9)
Contact: for questions code enforcement — 509-334-0802. For complaints – 509- 332-2521 

The city of Pullman regulates how animals are controlled in the City and requires that all dogs be on a leash when off private property. Owners of animals are also responsible for disposing of animal feces deposited on public property and for having in their possession the means for doing so. In addition, animals considered dangerous are required to be muzzled when away from the owner’s premises. Generally, an animal that has bitten or attacked a person or another animal unprovoked is considered to be a dangerous animal. The Code also requires that all cats and dogs must have a current rabies inoculation; and that all dogs must be licensed.

To reclaim animals picked up by Animal Control or to adopt animals, contact Whitman County Humane Society at 509-332-3422. Unwanted and abandoned pets are a real problem in Pullman. Please have your pet neutered/spayed to help control this situation.

Sidewalk and Pedestrian Clearance Areas

(Pullman City Code 11.42, 11.50)
Contact: Community Improvement Rep. – 509-338-3300.

To allow the public full and free use of sidewalks or pedestrian clearance areas, city code requires that these areas be free of debris, overhanging or surface vegetation, and in the winter months, snow and ice. To assist residents in better understanding their responsibilities in this regard, the Pullman City Code is available at under the ‘City Code’ menu item.

Litter Control

(Pullman City Code 5.45)
Contact: Community Improvement Rep. – 509-338-3300. 

Dropping or discarding litter in parks, streets sidewalks, public property, private property, water, ponds or pools is prohibited. The property owner or person in charge of the premises is responsible for keeping the property litter free. Proper litter receptacles must be provided and maintained on all premises.

It is also against the provisions of the Pullman City Code 5.01.050(19) to leave or deposit indoor furniture outdoors in a residential zone. [See nuisance control code.]


Pullman Disposal – 509-334-1914. 

Curbside recycling for single-family housing and multiple-family dwellings up to quadplex units is provided by Pullman Disposal Service. Recycling for apartment units is also offered by Pullman Disposal. Recycling centers are available in Pullman, Moscow, and at WSU.

Solid Waste

(Pullman City Code, Chapter 5.40)
Contact: Pullman Disposal – 509-334-1914.

By city code, every person must use a licensed solid waste collector to remove and transport solid waste from the premises on a regular basis. In order to secure services, you will need to contact Pullman Disposal. 

Solid waste containers that are placed at the street must be placed within 5 feet of the curb or alleyway no sooner than 24 hours prior to scheduled pick up and must be removed within 24 hours after pick up. Persons in charge of the premises must provide sufficient solid waste containers to hold solid waste of that premises and must assure that solid waste is collected regularly from that premises.

Chapter 5.40 of the Pullman City Code outlines requirements for the removal of solid waste and penalties for not doing so. The Revised Code of Washington section 9A.56.050 provides for charges of theft in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor, for individuals that commit theft of property or services by placing solid waste in the container of another individual who does have regular solid waste pickup.

Complaints about the illegal disposal of solid waste should be reported to the Community Improvement Representative at 509-338-3300.

Visual Nuisances

Pullman City Code 5.01.050 (19)
Contact: Community Improvement Rep. – 509-338-3300.

Property is to be properly maintained for both sanitary and visual reasons. Indoor furnishings, such as couches, are not allowed to be left outdoors in a residential zone. [See also Nuisance Control Code.]


(Pullman City Code, Chapter 3.16)
Contact: Pullman Fire Department – 509-332-8172. 

The use or discharge of fireworks by any person in Sunnyside Park on the day of the 4th of July celebration, other than display fireworks authorized under a permit issued by the Fire Chief, is prohibited.

There is a monetary penalty which shall not exceed Two Hundred Fifty dollars ($250) for each separate infraction.

Fireworks may be offered for sale by permittees only between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 1 through July 4. Consumer fireworks may be discharged only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 3 and between 9 a.m. and midnight on July 4 and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. on December 31 and January 1. Misdemeanor violation is subject to fine.


If you are renting property, state law requires you to have a smoke detector and to maintain it in good working order (RCW48.48.140). The city of Pullman also encourages everyone to develop and practice a home fire escape plan and post the "911" emergency number next to your phone.If you have obtained housing but are concerned that it may not meet life and safety requirements of the building code or fire code standards, please call the City of Pullman at 509-338-3220 for a building inspection or at 509-338-3270 for a fire code inspection. Concerns about discrimination in housing should be referred to the city of Pullman's Fair Housing Commission at 509-338-3208.

Occupancy Restrictions

(Pullman City Code, Chapter 17.75.075)

Within an R-1 Zone, no more than three unrelated persons may occupy a single dwelling unit. Within an R-2 Zone, no more than four unrelated persons may occupy a single dwelling unit. Failure of a property owner to comply with occupancy restrictions may result in a fine of $250 per day, up to $5,000 total per infraction.

Nuisance Control Code

(Pullman City Code 5.01) 
Contact: Community Improvement Rep. – 509-338-3300. 

Public nuisances caused by things such as litter, junk and trash accumulations are prohibited by code in the city of Pullman. A brief overview of the enforcement procedure follows. Nuisance enforcement is usually a complaint-driven process, with city parks and police departments responsible for enforcing nuisance control code provisions. Often the first step by city staff is to attempt to make in-person contact with the resident of the problem site, requesting voluntary cooperation to abate the nuisance. Without compliance, a Notice of Infraction, carrying a financial penalty to be levied by the Whitman County District Court, is issued to whoever is determined responsible for the existence of the nuisance. Second offenses require an appearance in court.

The complete new code provisions are available on the city Website at under City Code, Title 5, Health and Sanitation.

Nuisance Party Regulation

(Pullman City Code 5.05) 
Contact: for complaints – 509-332-2521. 

Nuisance parties or uncontrolled social gatherings and associated violations, are regulated in the city of Pullman by the police department. 

A party or social gathering that is or becomes a nuisance party, shall cease upon the order of the Chief of Police, or the Chief’s designee; and all persons not residing therein at the site of such social gathering or party shall leave the premises immediately. Any person who fails or refuses to obey and abide by such an order shall be guilty of a violation of this Chapter - a Class 2 infraction punishable by a penalty not less than $150 for a first offense. For each repeat violation of this Chapter, the enforcement officer shall require a mandatory Court appearance. For each repeat violation of this Chapter, the Court shall impose a minimum fine of $500. 

The host(s) of the nuisance party are also ticketed and fined. All nuisance party citations require a court appearance. 

The complete new code provisions are available on the city Website at under City Code, Title 5, Health and Sanitation.

Offenses against Peace and Order

Contact: Pullman Police Department - 509-332-2521
Disorderly conduct and fighting are prohibited in the City of Pullman. Violation of the ordinance is punishable as a civil infraction with a minimum penalty of no less than $250 for a first offense and no less than $500 for a second offense. In addition, it is a violation of the ordinance if three or more persons knowingly and unlawfully use or threaten to use force, or participate in any way in the use of force against any person or any property.
(1) No person may cause or create a risk of unreasonable public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm by:
  • Causing, invoking or engaging in any fight, brawl, or other violent or threatening behavior; or
  • Committing any act which tends to create or incite, or in fact creates or incites, either a violent response and/or an immediate breach of the peace. Such conduct includes, without limitation:
  • Personally abusive epithets, words or language that a reasonable person would find offensive, disgusting or insulting, and/or which epithets, words or language are likely to provoke a reaction of fear, anger or apprehension when addressed to a person of ordinary sensibilities; or
  • Disturbing any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority; or
  • Obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic without lawful authority; or
  • Without lawful authority threaten to cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to another person or persons.

(2) Two or more persons who unlawfully use or threaten to use force, or participate in any way in the use of such force, against any person or against property have committed the offense of disorderly conduct or fighting. (Ord. 08-6 §2, 2008).

8.26.020 Violation – Exceptions.

(1) It shall be a defense to a violation of this chapter that the actions were justified as self-defense.

(2) It is not a violation of this chapter to physically participate in a lawful or officially sanctioned sporting, training or educational event or forum. (Ord. 08-6 §3, 2008).

8.26.030 Violation – Penalty. A violation of this chapter shall be an infraction and shall be punishable by a penalty of not less than $250.00 for the first offense, plus costs and fees. For each repeat violation of this chapter, a mandatory court appearance shall be required and the penalty shall be not less than $500.00, plus costs and fees. (Ord. 08-6 §4, 2008).

Landlord/Tenant Law

Rental Agreements and You

  1. All blank spaces in a written rental agreement must be filled in, and you must receive a signed copy.
  2. The agreement should indicate whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for paying specific utility bills.
  3. Rental agreements remain in effect unless:
    • the landlord or tenant violates the conditions of the agreement, and proper notice is given to either party by the other;
    • both you and the landlord agree to end the agreement; or
    • either you or the landlord gives the other party proper notice that the agreement will be terminated.
  4. Your landlord cannot raise your rent, except:
    • when the full term of any written rental agreement has expired;
    • after providing you with at least one month advanced notice, in the case of a month-to-month agreement;
    • when a written rental agreement specifically provides for increases in the amount of your rent  

General Matters

  1. You must pay the rent by the date it is due, and you have the right to obtain a receipt from the landlord.
  2. You can get back the balance of any refundable security deposit within 14 business days after your rental agreement with the landlord has been terminated. However, the landlord may deduct any rent or other reasonable charges (which must be itemized in a written statement) from your security deposit.
  3. Any redecorating or cleanup deposits that you pay are also returnable to you unless your rental agreement with the landlord states otherwise.

Condition of the Premises

  1. You must keep the rental premises as clean and safe as the condition of the dwelling permits.
  2. You must dispose of all garbage, rubbish and other wastes in a clean and safe manner.
  3. You must keep all plumbing fixtures clean, and use appliances and other supplied utilities in a reasonable manner.
  4. You must allow the landlord to enter the rental premises for repairs/inspections at reasonable times, after the landlord has given you at least two days advance notice.
  5. In an emergency, the landlord can enter without your consent.

Your Conduct

  1. You must not damage or destroy any part of the rental premises.
  2. You are responsible for the actions of your guests.
  3. You are entitled to privacy and peaceful use of the premises. You must not act in a way that disturbs neighbors.
  4. You must promptly return all keys to the landlord when you move out.
  5. You must be truthful about information concerning occupants, pets, income, employment or criminal history.

Landlord's Right of Access

The landlord must give the tenant at least a two-day notice of his intent to enter at reasonable times. However, the law says that tenants must not unreasonably refuse to allow the landlord to enter the rental where the landlord has given at least one-day’s notice of intent to enter at a specified time to show the dwelling to prospective or actual purchasers or tenants.

  • Any provision in a rental agreement which allows the landlord to enter without such notice is not valid under the law.
  • The law says that tenants shall not unreasonably refuse the landlord access to repair, improve, or service the dwelling.

In case of an emergency, or if the property has been abandoned, the landlord can enter without notice. In all other cases, your landlord can enter with reasonable notice of no less than two days and only for a legitimate purpose, including to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs or alterations, or to show the apartment to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, etc. (RCW 59.08.150).

Landlord's Responsibilities to Maintain Premises

Under the Washington State Landlord-Tenant Act, the landlord must:

  1. Maintain the dwelling so it does not violate state and local codes in ways which endanger the tenant’s health and safety.
  2. Maintain structural components, such as roofs, floors and chimneys, in reasonably good repair.
  3. Maintain the dwelling in reasonably weathertight condition.
  4. Provide reasonably adequate locks and keys.
  5. Provide the necessary facilities to supply heat, electricity and hot and cold water.
  6. Provide garbage cans and arrange for removal of garbage, except in single family dwellings.
  7. Keep common areas, such as lobbies, stairways and halls, reasonably clean and free from hazards.
  8. Control pests before the tenant moves in. The landlord must continue to control infestations except in single family dwellings, or when the infestation was caused by the tenant.
  9. Make repairs to keep the unit in the same condition as when the tenant moved in (except for normal wear and tear).
  10. Keep electrical, plumbing and heating systems in good repair, and maintain any appliances which are provided with the rental.
  11. Inform the tenant of the name and address of the landlord or landlord’s agent.
  12. Set water heaters at 120° when a new tenant moves in.
  13. Provide smoke detectors, and ensure they work properly when a new tenant moves in. (Tenants are responsible for maintaining detectors.)
  14. Investigate whether a tenant is engaging in gang-related activity when another tenant notifies the landlord of gang-related activity by serving a written notice and investigation demand to the landlord. (See RCW 59.18.180 for details)

A landlord is not responsible for the cost of correcting problems which were caused by the tenant.

Self-help for Minor Defects

RCW 59.18.100 provides a self help remedy for minor defects, in which the cost can be deducted from rent under limitations. You may deduct the cost of repair from the rent if the reasonable cost of repair or compliance is no more than one month’s rent per each repair, and no more than two months rent in any 12 month period. If you want to pursue self-help, you must do the following:

    1. Notify the landlord in writing of your intention to correct the problem—at the landlord’s expense with a good faith estimate for the cost of the repairs, who then has 10 days (or as promptly as conditions require if it’s an emergency) to correct the problem.

      After giving notice, the tenant must wait the required time for the landlord to begin making repairs. Those required waiting times are:

      • 24 hours for no hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or for a condition which is imminently hazardous to life
      • 72 hours for repair of refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by landlord
      • 10 days for all other repairs
    2. If the landlord does not correct the problem, you may have the work done by a licensed contractor. You must then submit to the landlord an itemized statement of the contractor’s charges and a waiver of the contractor’s lien. You may then deduct the amount you paid from your next month’s rent.

Example: You rent an apartment for $400 a month. The pipes under the kitchen sink start leaking, and you know from experience that your landlord is very slow to fix such things. You call a plumber, who is a licensed contractor, and find out that it will cost $75 to $100 to fix the leak. You may deliver to your landlord written notice that unless the leak is fixed in ten days, you will pay to have it fixed and deduct the amount from your rent.

Termination of the Rental Agreement

Another provision of the Washington State Landlord/Tenant Act, RCW 59.18.90, allows a tenant to terminate the rental agreement if the landlord fails to remedy a defective condition within a reasonable time. Since by law, all of the provisions of the Landlord/Tenant Act are considered part of the rental agreement, this includes the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the premises as described above. In order to terminate the rental agreement you must do the following:

Ending the Rental Relationship

  1. No disputes about rent being due:
    • If you are renting month-to-month, you must provide the landlord with written notice—at least 30 days before your next payment would be due—that you will be terminating the rental agreement.
    • If you are renting for a longer period you still may be required to provide the landlord with written notice of your intent to terminate the rental agreement. Carefully read the terms of any agreement.
  2. If you have fallen behind in your rent payments:
    • If the tenant is even one day behind in rent, the landlord can issue a three day notice to pay or move out. If the tenant pays all the rent due within three days, the landlord must accept it and cannot evict the tenant. A landlord is not required to accept a partial payment.
    • If, after your landlord files suit against you, but before a judge issues a ruling, you pay the rent, late charges, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, you also can stay in the rental dwelling. Your landlord cannot force you to move out unless a judge grants an order for your eviction (called a Writ of Restitution), and the order is served on you (usually by a sheriff or constable).
    • If your landlord accepts a partial payment of the rent you owe, the landlord still may have the right to evict you unless you have a written agreement that allows you to stay.


When a landlord wants a tenant to move out, certain procedures must be followed. This section discusses why landlords can evict tenants, and what methods must be used.

There are four types of evictions under the law, each requiring a certain type of notice: For not paying rent.

For not complying with the terms of the rental agreement: If a tenant is not complying with the rental agreement (for example, keeping a cat when the agreement specifies “no pets”), the landlord can give a ten-day notice to comply or move out. If the tenant remedies the situation within that time, the landlord cannot continue the eviction process.

For creating a “waste or nuisance”: If a tenant destroys the landlord’s property; uses the premises for unlawful activity including gang or drug-related activities; damages the value of the property; interferes with other tenant’s use of the property; the landlord can issue a three-day notice to move out. The tenant must move out after receiving this type of notice. There is no option to stay and correct the problem.

For no cause: Except in the city of Seattle, landlords can evict month-to-month tenants without having or stating a particular reason, as long as the eviction is not discriminatory or retaliatory. If the landlord wants a tenant to move out and does not give a reason,the tenant must be given a 20-day notice to leave. The tenant must receive the notice at least 20 days before the next rent is due. The tenant can only be required to move out at the end of a rental period (the day before a rental payment is due.) Usually, a 20-day notice cannot be used if the tenant has signed a lease. Check the specific rental document to determine if a lease can be ended this way.

If the rental is being converted to a condominium, the tenant must be given a 90-day notice under state law.

Breaking your Lease

If you have to leave your place before your lease has expired, it does not automatically mean you lose every penny of your deposit. There are some legitimate, legally acceptable reasons for leaving during the term of your lease, such as: the landlord is not complying with the rental agreement (RCW 59.08.090); the landlord is wrongfully failing to supply essential services (RCW 59.08.060).

The Landlord-Tenant Act

Online here or write to:
Attorney General’s Office
2000 Bank of California Center 
900 4th Avenue 
Seattle, WA 98164

Free copies of the Landlord-Tenant Law are also available at Pullman City Hall, ASWSU, and the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. For more online information regarding Landlord-Tenant issues, see:

Moving In and Out

Before you Move In

You may legally be held responsible for any damage you, your roommates, and guests do to the premises while you live there. However, you are not responsible for normal "wear and tear." To protect yourself, insist that the landlord inspect the premises with you before you move in.

Write down any damage or problems on a sheet of paper that both you and the landlord sign, along with an acknowledgment that these damages or problems existed before you moved in and you are not responsible for them. If the premises aren't clean when you move in, and you have to clean them, ask the landlord to make an adjustment to your first month's rent, change the lease to indicate that you do not have to clean before you move out, or give you some other concession for having to take possession of a dirty residence.

Remember, by not cleaning the premises before you moved in, the landlord has saved money or time or both. Keep a copy of the movein inspection.

Moving In Costs and Budgets

The first month will be the most expensive. Take time to estimate your budget before you move, making special considerations for the first month.

Your costs will be less if you have a roommate to share expenses with! Be sure to include the following when working on your budget for that first month:

  • rent (some landlords may require first and last months rent)
  • security deposit
  • cable hook-up and first month of service
  • electricity deposit
  • moving service or truck rental
  • boxes and other moving supplies
  • telephone hook-up & long distance deposit
  • food and supplies (condiments, cleaning, etc.)
  • entertainment
  • tuition and fees
  • WSU parking pass (if applicable)
  • car insurance and fuel (if applicable)
  • books and supplies
  • other bills (credit cards, loans, etc.)

Don't forget to create a budget for after you have moved in!

Utility Estimates

To estimate utilities for an apartment or any residence, you may want to contact the customer service department and give them the address. They will be able to give you the average cost for the unit over a twelve month period, plus the lowest and highest bills.

Some apartment complexes use private billing services to bill for electricity. Ask the manager for the average cost per unit; if possible it is a good idea to verify these costs with a current tenant. To estimate your costs or to activate your utilities and services once you've moved in contact:

Power: Avista Utilities - 1-800-227-9187 1-877-GAS-TEAM (natural gas)

Telephone Service: Verizon - 1-800-483-4000

Garbage: Pullman Disposal 509-334-7914

Inventory Valuables

Keep an updated inventory of your valuables by writing down serial numbers with descriptions of each item. Photographs should be taken of everything, but especially items that cannot be marked.

Keep a list of your valuables in a safe deposit box or another secure place. You can also give a list to your insurance agent.

Rental Records

WSU Housing Commission hears many hard-luck stories when certain precautions are not taken. That's why we recommend good record keeping for renters. Lack of knowledge regarding leases or other rental agreements can cause a variety of problems. By keeping records of rental repair requests, security deposit disputes, and other important issues related to rental agreements, you can alleviate many of these types of problems. The most frustrating problems occur when tenants cannot document their grievances. To prevent this, start a rental file as soon as you sign the lease and add to it throughout your lease term. A rental file is easy to keep, considering the money you may recover through rental modification or qualifying for full return on your security deposit. If a rental problem arises, it is easier to negotiate a solution with the landlord when you have written records that show the extent of the problem, what you asked the landlord to do about it and how the landlord responded.

Your Rental File


  • 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 or security and always have it signed by a witness.

Before you Move Out

Ask the landlord to inspect the premises after you have cleaned and moved out your belongings. During the inspection, write down all of the damages that you will be held responsible for and the additional cleaning the landlord wants you to do, if any.

If you dispute any of the damage items, discuss it with the landlord at that time. Be sure to have the inventory checklist you used when you moved in with you to resolve any disputes about damage that was done before you moved in. By completing an inspection prior to moving out, you should be able to rectify some of the problems that may cause you to lose your security deposit. If you and the landlord can agree on the damaged and cleaning items, sign the list and get the landlord to do the same, indicating which items you will repair or clean before turning the premises back over to the landlord.

At the time you turn the keys over to the landlord, give him or her a letter asking for the return of your security deposit within 14 days and give an address where it can be mailed or delivered.

For any legal problems, call 509-335-9539 to schedule an appointment with the ASWSU Student Legal Services Office.

After You Move Out

Under Washington State law, your landlord has 14 days (excluding weekends and holidays) after the tenancy terminates and you "deliver possession" of the premises, to do one of two things:

  1. Return your security deposit in full; or
  2. Deliver to you an itemized written notice of the damages or unpaid rent to which the deposit has been applied, along with any remaining amount of the security deposit.

If the landlord does not comply with these requirements, you may file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court and recover the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld monies. (If you have caused damage to the premises or have not paid all the rent due, the landlord can still hold you responsible by filing a counter-suit against you for the cost of repairs, unpaid rent, and other damages.)

If you have not received your security deposit or an itemized explanation of the items to which it has been applied within 14 days, write the landlord a letter. Explain that you are aware of your rights under Washington State's landlord tenant laws and demand the return of your security deposit (or the portion to which you are entitled) within a specified period of time.

Let the landlord know that if your deposit is not returned within that time, you are prepared to file suit in Small Claims Court to enforce your rights. Note that "Delivery of possession" means returning the keys to the landlord and vacating the premises.

Safety and Security

Residential Dwelling Safety

Contact: Pullman Building Inspector at 509-338-3287 for building code violations or Pullman Fire Department at 509-338-3274 for fire code violations.

This is a general safety checklist for houses or apartments. The list is not all inclusive but is based on a current edition of the Washington State Building Code. The building code requires a building to comply with the codes in effect at the time it was built. The actual rules for the building you live in may be different than this list; that is if your building was built in the 1960s the building should comply with the codes in effect at that time which may not be the same as the codes for building today. If you believe there is an unsafe condition in your house or apartment contact the building owner, their agent, the city building inspector, or the city fire inspector.

One bedroom(s), living room and dining room in an apartment should have openings to the outside to provide fresh air. This could be a door, window or a mechanical ventilation system.

  • All electrical boxes should have a cover over the wires.
  • When you use an electrical outlet or switch it should not spark or shock you.
  • The pipes used to vent the products of combustion (smoke) from the furnace or water heater should have tight joints.
  • Fuel burning furnaces or water heaters need oxygen for combustion to take place. An excellent source of oxygen is the air in a building. The room housing these appliances should be large enough to supply the needed air, have openings into a large room, have openings to the outside of the building, or have air piped directly into the appliance.
  • Fuel burning furnaces or water heaters should not be located in bedrooms or bathrooms.
  • Fuel burning furnaces or water heaters should not be accessed from bedrooms or bathrooms.
  • Furnaces, wall heaters, room heaters, woodstoves, gas stoves, and water heaters are required to have a clear space from walls or ceilings. The required clear space is often on a label on the side of the appliance. If there is not a label, you may check with the building inspector or fire inspector for the required clearance.
  • All apartments are required to have a door opening into a hallway or the outside. Generally a dwelling or apartment is only required to have one exit.
  • The support walls and posts should be plumb and straight.
  • The beams supporting the floors or roofs should be level and straight.
  • Bedrooms should have a window for occupants to escape or be rescued if the need arises.
  • Bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms should have windows to provide natural light.
  • Each house or apartment should have a kitchen with a sink and cooking appliance.
  • Each house or apartment should have a separate bathroom containing a toilet, lavatory, tub or shower.
  • The sink, lavatory, and tub or shower should have hot water.
  • The roof and walls should not leak water.
  • A door should separate the kitchen from the toilet room.
  • An address number or letter should be on each unit.
  • Each house or apartment should have a heating system.
  • The area outside of each bedroom should have a smoke detector.

Sexual Assault

Anyone, male or female, is a possible rape victim. In most rapes, the victim and rapist were nonstrangers (acquaintances or friends). Educate yourself in rape prevention tactics by being aware of potentially dangerous situations, learning how to avoid them, and what to do when you cannot. Mandatory programs are held within the Greek community as well as in the residence halls and during New Student Orientation sessions. Free programs are available through the WSU Counseling and Testing Services at 509-335-4511 or for after hours crisis call 509-332-1505. WSU has a Sexual assault Response Team that can assist with filing reports, receiving support, and addressing housing or academic concerns. Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse also provides services and support for rape of domestic violence victims. Their 24 hour hotline is 509-332-4357. Remember your personal safety depends on you!

Apartment and Home Security

Life in a house or apartment includes taking personal responsibility for one's safety and well being. This includes everything from understanding the appliances and heating system, and how to shut them off if they malfunction, to locking your doors and windows. You are entitled to locks that work and need to contact your landlord immediately to repair broken locks.

There are other things you can do to protect yourself, your home, and your possessions. Make sure smoke detectors are properly installed and functioning at all times. If you have sliding doors or windows you might choose to have lengths of wood made to lay in the tracks of the doors/ windows to keep them from being opened. There are other commercial devices to provide extra security or warnings if your home is being entered. Check with your landlord before doing anything that would be permanently installed in the house or apartment.

Security of the apartment building you live in is only as effective as you make it. Don't leave it all to the management and the police. By following these suggestions, you can make your building a safer place in which to live.

  • Unknown or suspicious persons seeking entrance to the building should be referred to the management.
  • Notify the management when your apartment will be vacant.
  • Make arrangements with a neighbor or the management to receive deliveries.
  • DO NOT identify yourself on the mailbox as a female living alone.
  • Ask to install a wide-angle door viewer.
  • Do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk by opening the door to strangers.
  • Secure sliding balcony doors with a charlie bar or place a length of wood in the bottom track, making sure it fits snugly.
  • When in the elevator, stand near the floor button panel. In a difficult situation, push as many buttons as possible, particularly the Emergency button.
  • Do not enter an elevator if you are suspicious of the occupant(s); wait for the next one.
  • Be alert to vehicles or persons following you into the garage or parking lot.
  • Drive out of the area if you encounter suspicious circumstances and report them immediately to the management or the police.
  • Lock your vehicle; and remove high value items.

For more information contact the WSU Police Department at 509-335-8548 or Or contact the Pullman Police Department at 509-334-0802.

Safety on Campus

Your safety and security on and off campus is a priority. Many campus systems are already in place to make WSU a safe place for ALL students:

  • University Police: Police officers patrol the campus in cars, on bicycles and on foot. Two other levels of security personnel augment these professionals: the Cougar Security Patrol and the Police Intern Program, both of which are comprised of students. For emergencies call 911, for non-emergencies call 509-335-8548.
  • Women's Transit: Provides a safe, free transportation alternative for women who would otherwise walk alone after dark. Sun.-Thurs., 6:00 p.m. to midnight; Fri.-Sat., 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. Regular school year only, 509-335-6830.
  • Pullman Transit: provides local transportation services in Pullman, free for WSU students carrying their ID cards. Visit http:// or call 509-335-6535 for routes and schedules.
  • Blue Light Emergency Telephones: phones are located at many locations across the campus and in remote locations. Also, all campus and pay phones can access emergency services by dialing 911 for no charge.
  • Hazing: it is a misconception to believe hazing only occurs within our social Greek fraternities and sororities. It can also be found in class honoraries, athletic and sports clubs, and many smaller clubs on campus. Hazing is not always physical, it is often verbal and equally harmful.
  • Threatening or Obscene Phone Calls: anyone receiving such a call on campus can call the University police for instructions on how to trace the call. They can be contacted at 509-335-8548. 18
  • The Student Recreation Center (SRC): self-defense classes are offered by the SRC. Classes stress awareness, personal safety, and evasion training.
  • Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse: (509-332-HELP), is a non-profit, volunteer, and professional agency that assists survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. It Provides 24-hour crisis intervention (509-332-1505), confidential shelter, and support groups for victims and workshops on domestic violence.
  • Campus Crime Statistics: The University believes a community that is well informed about the nature of its crimes is a safety-conscious public. Not only is it your right to know campus crime statistics, it is to your advantage to act on it by developing personal routines that enhance your own safety, and becoming actively involved in the reporting of crimes and suspicious/ unusual activities. For current statistics go to the WSU Police Department Web site at: .
  • Office of Student Conduct: Handles complaints on and off-campus about WSU students that have violated others rights, welfare or individual dignity. For more information contact them at 509-335-4532 or at
  • Bias Hotline: Bias related incidents can be reported to 509-332-2427.

Renter's Insurance

When you rent a house or apartment, it is wise to and inexpensive insure your personal belongings. Most people are not covered by their landlord's insurance so it is in your best interest to invest in your own.

If your parents claim you as a dependent, first check to see if you might be covered under their policy. Usually, students are covered up to ten percent of their parents' insurance. Even if you are paying instate tuition and your parents live out-ofstate, you may still qualify on your parents' policy-so check with your family's agent first.

New Option for WSU Students, Staff, and Faculty

Recently, WSU Housing Services partnered with Haylor, Freyer, & Coon, Inc. to offer renter’s insurance.  While you may be covered under your parent’s homeowner’s insurance, claims against homeowner’s insurance can be expensive, especially compared to renter’s insurance.   Renter’s insurance will cover your belongings if they are accidentally damaged, stolen, vandalized or suffer a loss from water, fire, smoke, etc.   If a loss occurs, WSU is not responsible.  We strongly encourage you to purchase renter’s insurance as unfortunate situations can and do happen.  Here are some common situations that can occur: 

1. Water damage from sprinklers going off 
2. Fire, smoke, explosion, windstorm 
3. Theft 
4. Accidental damage 
5. Vandalism 
To purchase renter’s insurance, please visit You can also reach our broker that handles this plan (Haylor, Freyer, & Coon, Inc), at 866-535-0456 or and they’d be happy to answer any questions that you have and help you enroll.

This option is open to any currently enrolled students, as well as University staff/faculty. See the brochure in the right sidebar for more information including rates and coverages.

Renter's Insurance Policies Typically Cover:

  • Direct loss to personal property.
  • Additional living expense and liability claims.
  • The limit for additional living expense is usually 20% of the coverage. Personal or comprehensive liability covers premises and medical payments depending upon policy limits.

Who Should Have It:

Anyone who rents and is not covered by a parent's policy. Under most circumstances the landlord's policy will not pay for losses to tenants' personal property or damages caused by the tenant. Property losses are usually unexpected. Insurance is a means of protection in case such losses should occur.

What is Normally Covered:

Fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, vehicles, sudden or accidental damage from smoke, and theft. But discuss the specifics with your insurance agent to understand your own policy.

How Do I Know What Policy is Best For Me:

It is highly recommended to take a household inventory to determine the amount of coverage needed. Most insurance companies have household inventory sheets available to aid in calculating how much coverage is needed.

How to File a Claim:

To make a claim for a theft contact your insurance company for forms and instruction must be accompanied by a police report. It is also a good idea to have a list or pictures of belongings.

Leases and Landlords


A lease is a type of rental agreement between the landlord and tenant. A lease requires the tenant to stay for a specific amount of time and restricts the landlord's ability to change the terms of the rental agreement. Leases are binding contracts and are difficult to break once signed. You should understand and be comfortable with all provisions of a lease before signing.

A lease must be in writing to be valid, this is preferable because it gives both tenant and landlord a permanent record of their agreement. A written lease fixes all terms of the agreement so that no changes can be made for a given period of time. All obligations are set out clearly. During the term of the lease, the rent cannot be raised or the rules changed unless both landlord and tenant agree and tenants may not be evicted unless they violate a term of the lease.

The disadvantage is that if a tenant has to move before the end of the period, he/she may be liable for the entire period. Be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign. Whether you have a lease or month-to-month rental agreement, when you plan to move out, you must give written notice, usually at least 30 days before the agreement end.

Month-to-Month Rental Agreement

A month-to-month agreement is for an indefinite period of time, with rent usually payable on a monthly basis. The agreement itself can be written or oral, but if any type of fee or refundable deposit is being paid, the agreement must be in writing. A month-to-month agreement continues until either the landlord or tenant gives proper notice to end it. The rent can be raised or the rules changed at any time, provided the landlord gives the tenant proper notice.

Written monthly agreements contain the amount of rent and any rules and regulations, and make clear the rules which a tenant must follow. It is also a good way to help avoid disagreements and misunderstandings on landlord or tenant promises. The disadvantage is that the landlord can raise your 4 rent, terminate your tenancy or change any of its terms with a written notice delivered to you at least 30 days before your next periodic rental date. The tenant can terminate this type of agreement the same way.

Oral agreements have the advantage of being less formal than a written agreement. Unless the agreement is for a certain term (three months, six months, etc.) it is considered a month-to-month agreement, and you can move out with proper notice.

The disadvantage of oral agreements is the lack of clarity. If you end up in court, it is your word against theirs. If your agreement is a month-tomonth agreement, the landlord can raise your rent or evict you with proper notice (30 days on or before periodic rental date).

Separate Leases

Roommates with separate leases have a relationship comparable to that of tenants who live in separate apartments in the same building. The landlord is directly responsible for resolving some serious problems between roommates with separate leases, either by working with the roommates or serving an eviction notice to any roommate who violates the lease. Since the other roommates have separate leases, they do not need to worry about being evicted with the roommate who violates the lease or being required to make up the departed roommate's rent payments.

You should still document serious problems by writing letters to both the roommate and landlord requesting they take steps to solve the problem.

Joint and Several Liability

Under most leases, roommates are jointly and severally liable for the lease. This means any one roommate can be held responsible for the actions of any or all other roommates. Any or all roommates can be sued for the damage done by one roommate. And all roommates can be evicted if one roommate fails to pay the rent. Before you sign a lease, make sure potential roommates are responsible and able to pay their share of rent and other expenses. To protect themselves, roommates should make some sort of written contract between themselves to determine what will happen if one roommate decides to leave.

Pre-Lease Agreement

In order to hold a space for you in their apartment complexes, many landlords will ask you to sign a "pre-lease agreement." We do not recommend entering into this type of agreement with a landlord. You might find yourself bound by contract to a lease before you are really ready to commit.

Leasing Sight Unseen

Some apartment complexes have model apartments for prospective tenants to look through. You should always ask to see the actual unit you will be renting. If you are not able to see it for some reason, ask the landlord to add the following addendum to the lease and sign it:

"Tenant has not had the opportunity to inspect the unit covered by this lease. Landlord warrants that the unit to be occupied by tenant will be in good, habitable condition and will conform to any model unit shown to Tenant in all material respects except as agreed. If the unit is not in good condition or does not conform to the model unit in some material respect, except as agreed to, tenant may give written notice to Landlord that unless the deficiency is corrected within a specified reasonable time, the lease will be void. If Landlord fails to correct the deficiency within the specified reasonable time, Tenant has no further obligations under the lease and the Landlord must return all monies previously paid to him by Tenant regardless of how denominated."

This will give you protection in case the unit you are given is substandard or not as represented. If the landlord refuses to add this to the lease, think twice before signing it.

Your Lease Should

Your lease should state the beginning and ending date of the lease. Be sure that it also includes the amount and type of deposit. A security deposit is money given to assure performance of the rental agreement; it can be applied to rent, pets, or damages and CANNOT have a value greater than one and one-half times the monthly rent.

Check to see that the names of the owner, manager or person authorized to receive notices is listed on the lease. The rules for behavior may be on the lease or they may be on a separate document that should be provided for you- remember, you can be evicted if you do not abide by the landlord's rules. Make sure you ask questions to be sure that you understand what you are accepting. Responsibility for the payment of utilities needs to be specified on the lease. Is it you or the landlord?

Look to see that the lease agrees with the Washington State Residential Landlord/Tenant Act. A copy may also be obtained from Pullman City Hall or viewed online. No rental agreement may contain any provisions in which the tenant agrees to waive or forgo any right or remedy under this act. You may choose to take a copy of your lease to ASWSU Student Legal Services and have it reviewed before you sign it.

Before you Sign the Lease

Landlords usually ask for a security deposit at the time the lease is signed. You may be asked to pay the last months rent, as well. Regardless of what it is called in the lease or rental agreement, any sum you pay the landlord to hold as security for damages to the premises or unpaid rent is considered "security." The money collected may be refundable or nonrefundable. Under the Washington State Landlord/Tenant Act, the term "deposit" can only be applied to the money which can be refunded to the tenant.

If a refundable deposit is being charged, the law requires:

-The rental agreement must be in writing. It must say what each deposit is for and what the tenant must do in order to get the money back.

-The tenant must be given a written receipt for each deposit.

-A checklist or statement describing the condition of the rental unit must be filled out. Landlord and tenant must sign it, and the the tenant must be given a signed copy.

-The deposit must be placed in a trust account in a bank or escrow company. The tenant must be informed in writing where the deposits are being kept. Unless some other agreement has been made in writing, any interest earned by the deposit belongs to the landlord.

Non refundable fees will not be returned to the tenant under any circumstances.


1. Cleaning and redecorating charges are not considered part of the security deposit. However, if those charges are to be nonrefundable, the landlord must state that fact in writing. If it is not in writing, these charges cannot automatically be withheld when you move out.

Example: Your lease specifies a security deposit and a cleaning deposit. However, the lease does not say that the cleaning deposit is "nonrefundable." When you move out, you clean the place thoroughly, but the landlord does not return the cleaning deposit. In order to legally withhold the cleaning deposit in this situation, the landlord must treat it as any other security deposit and give you a written, itemized statement of the amount spent for cleaning your former residence.

2. Make sure the charges you pay at the beginning of your tenancy are clearly explained in your lease or rental agreement.

Example: Your lease specifies a security deposit of $350, which is equal to a month's rent. When you sign the lease, the apartment manager tells you that you can use the security deposit in lieu of your last month's rent. However, the written lease says nothing about this arrangement. In this case, insist that the lease be changed to reflect this agreement. If you do not, and you later get into a dispute about this provision, the written lease provision will probably determine the outcome.

Some provisions which may appear in rental agreements or leases are not legal and cannot be enforced under the law. These include:

  • A provision which waives any right given to tenants by the Landlord Tenant Act.
  • A provision that tenants give up their right to defend themselves in court against a landlord's accusations.
  • A provision which limits the landlord's liability in situations where the landlord would normally be responsible.
  • A provision allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit without proper notice.
  • A provision requiring a tenant to pay for all damage to the unit, even if it is not caused by tenants or their guests.
  • A provision stating the tenant will pay the landlord's attorney's fees under any circumstances if a dispute goes to court.
  • A provision that allows the landlord to seize a tenant's property if the tenant falls behind in rent.

Always make sure you understand the legalities and circumstances surrounding your lease or rental agreement. If you find any of these provisions in your lease agreement, DO NOT SIGN THE LEASE! (For more information on Landlord-Tenant Issues click here.)

Non-Legal Provisions

Some provisions which may appear in rental agreements or leases are not legal and cannot be enforced under the law. These include:
  • A provision which waives any right given to tenants by the Landlord Tenant Act.
  • A provision that tenants give up their right to defend themselves in court against a landlord's accusations.
  • A provision which limits the landlord's liability in situations where the landlord would normally be responsible.
  • A provision allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit without proper notice.
  • A provision requiring a tenant to pay for all damage to the unit, even if it is not caused by tenants or their guests.
  • A provision stating the tenant will pay the landlord's attorney's fees under any circumstances if a dispute goes to court.
  • A provision that allows the landlord to seize a tenant's property if the tenant falls behind in rent.

Always make sure you understand the legalities and circumstances surrounding your lease or rental agreement. If you find any of these provisions in your lease agreement, DO NOT SIGN THE LEASE!