Bremerton is a competitive rental market, and there is a lot to know before you apply. Here you can get informed before you search.
Searching for Housing
There is a lot of discussion these days about "affordable housing". Sometimes affordable housing refers to the reality that market rate housing in the Puget Sound area can be extremely expensive. City leaders are making housing affordability a priority.
Affordable housing can also refer more specifically to housing that is subsidized or income-based. There are many sources of "subsidized housing," but as a general rule, rent is restricted and they require income-eligibility and verification. One of the largest affordable housing providers is the federally-funded Bremerton Housing Authority (BHA). BHA administers a "Housing Choice Voucher" program formerly known as "Section 8." To learn more about BHA housing, visit the BHA website.
To find rental housing, many renters look to public web sites like Craigslist and Zillow or use phone apps like PadMapper and Trulia. Posting your own ad on Craigslist under "Housing Wanted" can sometimes be successful. Always be wary of potential scams and remain cautious when providing personal information. Renting can be a competitive business, so thinking creatively can help.
Tip: Search notice boards at markets and community hubs in the neighborhood where you're looking to move.
Check that the Unit is Safe and Up to Code
When you are looking for a potential home, it is natural to focus on the cosmetic aspects of a unit. However, it is most important to look at the general condition and safety of the unit.
Please use this Rental Housing Safety Checklist to determine whether a potential unit is safe to occupy. Items in red on the checklist MUST be repaired by the owner before a home can be rented.
- You cannot be required to pay a security deposit if the landlord does not provide you with a move-in checklist when you sign a rental agreement and move into your new home. The checklist needs to be signed and dated by both you and the landlord.
- The checklist should describe in detail the condition of the rental unit, including but not limited to, walls, floors, carpets, drapes, furniture, appliances, countertops, paint, tile, etc.
- Examine your new home carefully to make sure the checklist is accurate. Let the landlord know immediately if something is not noted on the checklist. The checklist is what the landlord will use to determine if you are responsible for any damage when you move out. Make sure it's accurate!
- See the state laws on security deposits and checklists and on security deposits and trust accounts.
Electricity in Bremerton is supplied by Puget Sound Energy. You can open an account in your own name, or, you can pay through your landlord’s account if they set it up. You are responsible for letting Puget Sound Energy know when you move out.
Tip: Puget Sound Energy has programs to help with utility discounts and payments.
For information about other utilities, see the City’s Utilities page.
1) Inform your landlord of the necessary repair in writing: RCW 59.18.070
Under State law, your landlord has a timeline they must follow to begin repairs, but it doesn’t start until you notify them in writing. Send the letter with both certified and regular first class mail, and keep a copy for your own records. You can also personally deliver the letter, but consider having the landlord sign and date a copy that you keep. Always keep a copy of the letter. Documenting that your landlord received the letter is very important because other legal remedies only become available after the landlord has received the letter. Take some photographs of the area that needs repair with an item that has the day’s date, like a newspaper, in case you need to prove that the repair has existed for the time that you are claiming.
2) Wait for your landlord: RCW 59.18.070
State law lays out specific timeframes in which your landlord MUST take action to begin the repairs once having received written notice. They are:
- Not more than 24 hours where the defective condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat or electricity, or is imminently hazardous to life.
- Not more than 72 hours where the defective condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord.
- Not more than 10 days in all other cases. Includes landlord duties defined under the law RCW 59.18.060, among others.
The repairs do not need to be completed in that time frame, but they must begin in the time frame and they must be completed promptly.
3) Is the landlord not complying?
If your landlord has not begun the repair within these timeframes, you have a few options under the law. They each require a specific legal process and each have their limitations. For detailed information about what to do next, see the Washington Law Help document Tenants’ Repair Remedies (Note: The City does not endorse the content of this site and provides it for reference only. Legal issues should be consulted with an attorney, and ultimately the reader should refer to State law.).
Notices From Your Landlord
Notice of a Housing Cost Increase
"Housing costs" include rent and any monthly fees you pay your landlord, like storage or parking. Utility charges based on usage are not included in this type of notice.
If you have a rental agreement for a specific term, the landlord cannot change your housing costs for the duration of that term. If your rental agreement gives you the choice to stay as a month-to-month tenant at the end of the term, and the landlord wants to increase your housing costs at that time, the landlord must follow the rules below to send you a housing cost increase notice before the term expires.
- The landlord must give you written notice a minimum of 60 days prior to a housing cost increase.
- Increases can only begin at the start of a rental period. For example, if your landlord issues you a notice of increased rent on April 15th, and your rent is due at the beginning of each month, the rent increase would enter effect on July 1st.
Notice of Intent to Enter Your Unit by Your Landlord
Your rental agreement gives you a possessory right over your home. That means your landlord cannot enter without your permission and proper notice unless there is an emergency. The landlord has a right to seek access for making repairs, inspections, or showing the unit to prospective tenants or contractors, but they must give you:
- At least 2 days' notice for repairs or inspections
- At least 1 day's notice for showing the unit to a new buyer or renter.
Notices to enter must include:
- The date the landlord wants to come in
- The earliest and latest time that they may arrive
- A telephone number you can call in case you do not wish to allow the entry on the date or time in the notice
If the date or time does not work for you and you have a valid reason for not wanting to give your landlord access, you should provide dates and times that will work. A valid reason might be that you have already planned a family event in your home at that time or simply that you wish to be there during the access and need more notice to take time off work. You should do this in writing to document your attempts to cooperate with the landlord's request. Both you and your landlord must be respectful and reasonable about access to the unit.
In cases of an emergency a landlord can enter the tenant's unit without notice. Examples of an emergency may include:
- A major plumbing leak
- A fire
- Police wellness check of the tenant (that requires the landlord to allow officers to enter the unit)
Notice to Comply of Vacate (10 Days)
A landlord will use a 10-day notice when you violate the rental agreement or when you owe money other than rent. Examples might include:
- Smoking in a non-smoking unit/building
- Keeping a pet when no pets are allowed
- Sub-letting your unit or a room in your unit
- Failure to pay your utility bill
- Creating loud noise during quiet hours
- Fees for late rent payment
The notice needs to state clearly what you have done to violate the rental agreement or what you owe and what you need to do to comply with the notice. The 10-day period for compliance starts from midnight on the day you receive the notice.
Notice to Pay or Vacate (14 Days)
A landlord will use a 14 day notice when rent is late. It allows a very small window of time to pay the rent you owe. You should do whatever you can to pay within that time. If you anticipate not being able to pay your rent on time, it is usually best to let your landlord know beforehand . Your landlord may even consider agreeing to a payment plan or forgiving late fees so you can get caught up. You have nothing to lose by asking the landlord to work with you; the worst that can happen is that your landlord says no. Often, your landlord will appreciate you being proactive when you have an issue paying your rent if it is not an ongoing problem.
Pay attention to the date rent is due on your rental agreement. Rent is usually due on the first of the month. It's common to see late fees assessed on the third or fifth day. This does not mean you get a "grace period" which is a common misconception some renters have. It just means you can't be charged a late fee until then. You can receive a 14 day notice any time after midnight of the day the rent is due.
Notice to Quit for Waste or Nuisance (3 Days)
A landlord will use this 3 day notice in very serious situations, such as conducting criminal activity on the property or if you've caused severe damage to the unit. There is no cure for this notice. The only way to comply is to move out. Seek legal advice and assistance immediately if you receive a 3-day notice to vacate for waste or nuisance. The landlord should have clear evidence that this type of notice is appropriate.
When it’s Time to Go
Notice of Your Intent to Leave
Your rental agreement will determine how you must notify your landlord that you want to move out. If your lease is month to month, you must give notice to your landlord in writing at least 20 days before the last day of the month that you want to move out. For example, if you wanted to move out by July 31, you must give notice no later than July 11.
If you have a rental agreement for a term, you will need to read the section that provides details on giving notice. It is quite common for a rental agreement for a term to require 30 days advance written notice if you intend to stay or move out before the term expires. Sometimes, the rental agreement may end without any notice required and you may be expected to vacate your unit. You should be clear at the time you sign your rental agreement what kind of term is offered and how it will end.
Remember the landlord must receive the notice by the minimum deadline, so allow additional time for mailing if necessary. Hand your notice to your landlord if possible and keep a copy for your records.
Wear and Tear
When you move out, you are must return the rental unit to the same condition you rented it except for "reasonable wear and tear." Reasonable wear and tear naturally occurs over time. Examples are paint fading, scuff marks on linoleum, wear patterns on carpet, etc. Damage, on the other hand, generally occurs more as a result of negligence or abuse. Examples are holes in the wall, broken windows, or burn marks. Your landlord must use the checklist you both signed at the time you moved in to determine if you are responsible for damage to the unit. The landlord is not required to do an exit walk-through with you, but you can ask for one if you think it's useful. It's always a good idea to take pictures of the unit to document the condition you returned it in, including cleanliness. If your landlord charged you for cleaning when you moved in, you cannot be charged for cleaning at move out. If you owe outstanding utility charges, your deposit may be used to cover those.
- Your landlord has 21 days from your move-out to return your deposit and/or provide you with a statement specifying the basis for retaining only a portion of your deposit.
- If the landlord needs additional time to get quotes for repair or for a final utility bill to arrive, they must notify you within the 21 day period.
- Your landlord must consider depreciated value when calculating deductions for damage.
- It's your responsibility to provide your landlord a correct mailing address for your deposit refund. If you do not, the landlord must use your last known mailing address.
- Tenants Union: Provides information on tenant rights and on organizing tenants for community action
- Washington Law Help: Free legal information and court forms written by lawyers to guide you through the court processes of eviction and security deposit disputes
Rental Assistance ProgramsThe City of Bremerton has partnered with the Bremerton Housing Authority on the below Rental Assistance Programs. Click here for more information and application materials.
- The first program is designed to help individuals and families that need help with eviction prevention, rapid rehousing (you are homeless and moving into an apartment/house/home or need to move for a particular reason, for example domestic violence) and security deposits (when moving into a new apartment or home). You must be living in or be moving into the city limits of Bremerton proper. You must be 18 years of age or older. You may be eligible for up to three (3) months assistance. You may be eligible for up to 70% of your base rent to be paid.
- The second program is designed to help individuals and families that need help with rent due to their work hours being affected in relationship to COVID-19. You must live in the city limits of Bremerton and be 18 years of age or older. To be eligible for the program, you must show proof of loss or reduction of income with a letter from your employer stating hours have been reduced due to COVID-19. This program can be up to 6 months of assistance. You may be eligible for up to 70% of assistance of your base rent to be paid.
If an issue arises that would be covered under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) or other State or Federal law, the reader should seek legal counsel and ultimately refer to the State or Federal law. This document should only serve as an introduction to what is covered in State or Federal law and does not constitute legal advice. This article was written in 2020; for up-to-date information see City, State, and Federal law. The links provided above are not endorsed or verified by the City of Bremerton and are provided for reference only.