Good morning Carrie. First, it's against the law for the landlord to simply shut off the power. That would be a constructive eviction and thus constitute an illegal eviction resulting in the landlord being liable for actual and punitive damages due to his illegal actions, including paying for your room and board elsewhere. Even if you are allegedly in default, if you don't leave, the law does not allow the landlord to forcibly evict you without obtaining an eviction order from a court. What that means is that if you do not move out, the cannot simply change the locks, shut off utilities, or throw your things out. Rather, what the landlord has to do is to first deliver a 10-Day Notice to quit under Washington law...which basically says you have 10 days to leave or face eviction. But, if you still don't leave, the landlord must then file an unlawful detainer petition with the court for an eviction order. Depending upon the court's docket, it can take anywhere from about 15 days to a couple of months to get a hearing. Only when a judge has issued the eviction order can the landlord have the tenant evicted. And, you would get a notice of that hearing and would want to show up to contest the landlord's right; given your facts, you would likely prevail and the landlord's petition would be dismissed.
Your cause of action would be breach of contract by the landlord. With every rental comes the implied warranty of habitability, which includes the tenant's right to the safe, healthy, peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the rented premises. Given your fact situation which directly puts your health and safety in peril, a tenant would clearly not be afforded such enjoyment of the premises....and therefore the landlord would be in breach of the implied warranty of habitability. This puts the landlord in default. This gives you the right to terminate the lease and sue for damages, including the cost of moving plus include reimbursement of a portion of all prior rent to date to compensate for the reduced value of the rental property due to the reduced benefit of your rental bargain due to the inhabitability. Furthermore, although you have the right to terminate the lease due to the breach, you are not required to do so. Rather, you can file a claim against the landlord for damages due to this breach. Damages would include reimbursement of a portion of all prior rent to date to compensate for the reduced value of the rental property due to the problems, and to either reduce the rent going forward or pay you for temporary living expenses, at your option, until the problem is fully remediated.
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