Legal assistance is extraordinarily valuable for tenants, but must be utilized in specific ways. There are five primary ways to make legal assistance work for you in resolving landlord-tenant matters. Many of these resources are free or low cost to renters seeking assistance. Contact each program individually to find out about their eligibility requirements.
1) Get assistance to understand and interpret landlord-tenant laws.
Washington LawHelp provides detailed information on laws governing tenancy in Washington State.
2) Use it to strengthen your negotiations with your landlord.
Though tenants can do all their negotiations with their landlords themselves, some landlords may be more responsive to the authority of an attorney. You may also be able to get assistance writing letters and citing the laws in communications with your landlord. Lawyers at the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinics may be able to help you write a letter asserting your rights.
3) Obtain assistance or representation in eviction court or a subsidy termination
You may be able to talk to an attorney to help you understand or respond to an eviction notice or subsidy termination. If you have defenses in an eviction lawsuit, you may be able to secure an attorney to represent you in court. You can call CLEAR at 888.201.1014 from anywhere in the state. CLEAR is the Northwest Justice Project's free legal help and assistance for low-income Washington State residents, and they are open Mon–Fri, 9:15 am–12:15 pm and Tues, 3:30–6:15 pm. The King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project serves low-income tenants in the City of Seattle and King County and is tenants’ primary resource for legal assistance with an eviction notice or eviction lawsuit. Catholic Community Services' Legal Action Center also may be able to assist low-income tenants facing eviction. Tenants in subsidized housing or with Section 8 vouchers may be able to get representation in a Grievance Hearing through Northwest Justice Project or Legal Action Center.
4) Use it to help you prepare for a Small Claims Court suit against your landlord.
Small Claims Court is the primary way that tenants can recover money owed to them by their landlord. There are no attorneys allowed in Small Claims Court, but an attorney through Neighborhood Legal Clinics can help you prepare for your case.
5) File a civil lawsuit against your landlord.
In rare cases, tenants may be able to obtain legal representation to sue their landlords. You will have to hire a private attorney to pursue this option, which may not be affordable to many renters. You may be able to find an attorney for hire through King County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.