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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10238
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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Past two months I had been living in a home in Seattle, WA

Customer Question

For the past two months I had been living in a home in Seattle, WA under an agreement stating I would take care of the home in the owner's absence, basically house sitting. But while the homeowner was not away, I was to do 4 hours of housework a week. If I could not do the housework then I would pay $37.50 for each hour I did not work (based on the room being worth $600 a month). The owner never actually left town. While away on Thanksgiving break I received an email from the owner informing me that she was terminating our contract and I was no long allowed on the property (which was completely unexpected). She then stipulated a time I could come get my stuff. She is also claiming that I will be billed for her and her handyman's time to oversee me while I remove my items.
What are my rights are in this situation? I can't figure out if landlord-tenant laws apply or not. And if they don't, what kind of rights do I have? I paid a deposit that I dearly want back and if she doesn't give it back, or bills me for things I don't agree with I want to know what laws I can reference. In the time I was there, I did pay to make up for two hours I did not work because I didn't have time that week. She required I pay in cash and would not accept a check. I did not get a receipt unfortunately. Thanks for the help!!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

You have a landlord tenant relationship, and your landlord has given you insufficient notice to vacate.

Your landlord has also attempted to charge you for an improper fee (there is no basis for someone to "oversee" you while you remove your belongings.

You can reference this guide for additional assistance: http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/resource/your-rights-as-a-tenant-in-washington

You can decide for yourself how you want to deal with this - be aggressive now, or wait until you receive your security deposit back and deal with all of your issues as a whole and try negotiations or sue your landlord in small claims court at that time.

If you end up having to sue your landlord, here is a link that will be of assistance: http://www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/resources/?altMenu=smal&fa=newsinfo_jury.Scc

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The owner told me she we do not have an agreement. She wrote the following in an email to me.
"You know very well that you have never been a tenant and that you have never rented from me. You have entered into a service contract in which you pledged to provide services, and you were to be compensated in a form housing (if you rendered services as agreed). The contract has been terminated per your refusal to provide services and for your breach. Paragraph 8 specifies the termination in such case will be immediate and also that you will be required to restitute any additional damages."btw, I did not refuse to perform the services, and my "breach of contract" included things like using the toilet paper in the one bathroom we shared before I realized that she had it the contract that I was to use my own (In very unclear language as well), and removing her clothes from the dryer and placing them neatly on top when I moved my clothes in. There was also strife over my cooking of onions and garlic, which I had completely suspended when she asked me to (she had an allergy). Suffice to say, I did my best to do everything I agreed to do.She claimed she no longer felt safe in the house, and it is her house and I just had the room. So I think she is saying she feels unsafe so she has legal grounds to kick me out with minimal notice. I don't know why she feels unsafe. I actually requested a civil standby from the police when I started moving things out because I felt unsafe because the abrupt turn of events, I didn't feel like I could trust her reasoning.I attached our agreement as a word doc, removing our names. Feel free to reference it.Can I be sure that we do have a landlord tenant relationship that would up in court if I have to fight for my deposit? She claims we do not and that the agreement states otherwise. Is there any other laws that we could fall under that I could look into? She has indicated she doesn't need to provide my deposit back to me in full because of "damages." She's also claiming that things "have been disappearing" so I'm afraid she will charge for other things as well.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

Just because your landlord doesn't understand landlord/tenant law does not mean your relationship is not governed by the landlord/tenant code.

As I noted above, you have 2 options here with regard to how you want to go about enforcing your rights: you can start now, or you can simply get your belongings and do so after the fact (may be easier than trying to do it "piecemeal" - given your description I don't know if you want to continue trying to live there, but that is a decision you must make).

You can try mediation before a small claims suit, but given the personalities at issue, I don't know if it is worth it (do review the small claims information above, another good resource is the King County Law Library http://www.kcll.org/ - you can also use your local law library).

Unfortunately I cannot review your specific documents on this forum, we are a "general legal information" forum, I cannot provide you with formal legal advice or specific legal instruction here.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Below is the part of the landlord tenant law that concerns me a little bit. Number 8 listed below living arrangements exempted form the order. I did housework for her. I don't think what I did was considered "employment" necessarily. I'm a full time student and worked 4 hours per week while she was in town. And would have been a house sitter if she had ever left. Do you think this could possibly exempt me?RCW 59.18.040
Living arrangements exempted from chapter.
(8) Occupancy by an employee of a landlord whose right to occupy is conditioned upon employment in or about the premises.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
btw, I did get my stuff out of there. She didn't allow me any time to clean up, just get stuff out so I don't want to be charged unnecessarily for vacuuming or something like that either. She had her handyman there the whole time, and they watched me pack everything up, even when packing my car out on the curb. So I'm currently just waiting to see if she gives me my deposit before I take any further action, but I have incurred a lot of expenses finding a new place to stay immediately. Plus its two weeks before the end of the quarter. I'm in grad school, and the affect this has had on my school work has been pretty rough, not that there is anything I can do about that now.If this is covered under landlord tenant then I should have had more time to move out.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

As with most legal situations, there are often arguments for treatment on both sides of this particular exclusion.

However, if your landlord makes a claim that you aren't a tenant, that still doesn't explain her breach of contract to you.

Again, how far you want to push this is up to you (your damages are probably going to be fairly limited in this matter (even if you are to be entirely in the right, a short term week to week or month to month tenancy does not afford the tenant a great deal of protection for an ineffective notice violation by the landlord), but you certainly can dispute any withholdings, etc. that she may make.

If you are in school, speak to your university, most schools do have legal aid on campus, they may not represent you in court, but they can take a closer look at your documents and offer you some more formal legal advice than what I can through this short "Q&A" type environment - they can also give you referrals to mediation services etc. that may help you resolve the matter more inexpensively and quickly than having to go through small claims (if mediation fails you can always sue her later (a court isn't going to be impressed with her conduct).

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the info. It has been helpful I will definitely check into the university options.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

You are welcome, and I do wish you the best with this matter.

Thank you for using our forum, and please do not forget to rate my service so that I can receive credit for assisting you.

If you would like to direct future questions to me specifically, you can do so by starting your new question with "For William B. Esq." and a moderator will notify me.

Thank you again, and again I wish you the best.

Bill

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