Washington Law Review


Retaliatory eviction occurs when a landlord evicts a tenant because the tenant took action to compel the landlord to comply with the law. Because tenants had no laws with which to compel landlords to comply until the relatively recent advent of remedial housing legislation, the retaliatory eviction defense is a recent development in the law. After examining the historical basis for the retaliatory eviction defense, this comment discusses remedial housing legislation in Washington. It illustrates (i) the historical concern of both the state legislature and the state supreme court for quality rental housing; (ii) the state's historical dependence on municipalities to enforce and supervise the housing standards spawned by that concern; and (iii) municipalities' reliance on tenant complaints, particularly those of periodic tenants, as a crucial part of these enforcement and supervisory efforts. This comment then analyzes a recent retaliatory eviction case decided by the state court of appeals. Failing to consider the historical perspective of the state's housing policies, that court misconstrued the Residential Landlord Tenant Act to exempt periodic tenant evictions from the Act's retaliatory eviction prohibition. The comment concludes that the city of Seattle's recent Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, permitting a landlord to evict a tenant only for good cause, is consistent with the state's housing policies and is not preempted by any exemption of retaliatory termination of periodic tenancies. The Ordinance should, however, substantially reduce the number of retaliatory evictions in Seattle. Until the court of appeals' decision is overruled or changed by statute, tenants in other municipalities will be without this protection.

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