Property Management Q & A | New Management


We just took over management of an apartment building in Tacoma. What, specifically, do we need to do with regard to notifying tenants of the changeover?

The answer might surprise you for such a seemingly simple question.

PropertyManagement-QnA

According to RCW 59.18.060(15), one of the duties of a landlord is to "Designate to the tenant the name and address of the person who is the landlord by a statement on the rental agreement or by a notice conspicuously posted on the premises. The tenant shall be notified immediately of any changes in writing, which must be either (a) delivered personally to the tenant or (b) mailed to the tenant and conspicuously posted on the premises."

Remember that the "landlord" is defined by RCW 59.18.030(9) as the " owner, lessor, or sublessor of the dwelling unit or the property of which it is a part, and in addition means any person designated as representative of the owner, lessor, or sublessor including, but not limited to, an agent, a resident manager, or a designated property manager." Thus, any change in who is serving as the "landlord" is subject to the notification requirements of RCW 59.18.060.

Since "landlord" is not synonymous with "owner", you can imagine several different scenarios where a notice to the tenant is required. If an owner who is self-managing the property sells to someone else, there has been a change in the landlord and the tenant requires notice. If an individual owner who uses third party management changes management companies, then a notice to the tenant is required. Interestingly enough, if a building’s ownership changes hands, but the management company doesn’t change (and the manager is serving as the "Landlord"), no notice is required.

When a notice of change of landlord is required, be aware that RCW 59.18.060(15) requires that the notice be either hand delivered to the tenant, or alternatively, both mailed and posted on the property.

Additionally, RCW 59.18.270 requires that the tenant be notified of the any changes in the location of their security deposit trust account. That statute requires, "If during a tenancy the status of landlord is transferred to another, any sums in the deposit trust account affected by such transfer shall simultaneously be transferred to an equivalent trust account of the successor landlord, and the successor landlord shall promptly notify the tenant of the transfer and of the name, address, and location of the new depository."

Please understand that the obligation to inform the tenant of the identity of the landlord is one of those obligations subject to RCW 59.18.270. This means that a tenant could write a new management company or owner a notice informing them that they have not received the information of the landlord’s identity and address.

In such a case, if the landlord fails to provide the required notice within ten days, the tenant could break the lease and move without penalty, as provided in RCW 59.18.100.

Of course, any time that management changes, it is a good time to perform an audit of your tenant files and verify that they are complete. It is hardly unheard of for a new property manager or purchaser to receive incomplete lease files from the former owner or manager. Many times, you can correct any errors or omissions in a cordial, friendly basis. For example, your author once purchased a small apartment building, but only received written lease file for half of the units. Promptly after closing, we contacted all the affected tenants and all but one of them agreed to fill out new lease paperwork.

 


 

Christopher T. Benis

Christopher T. Benis is an attorney with Harrison-Benis, LLP with offices in Seattle. The information contained herein is not legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with your attorney before relying on anything contained herein.

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