Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court
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Rogaciano and Raquel Cabrera bought a house in Pasco, Washington, in 2007. In 2011, they obtained a license from the city to rent the house as a single residential unit. Contrary to the license, the Cabreras rented the upstairs and the basement as separate apartments. The Cabreras leased the basement to Jose Segura and Tabetha Gonzalez (collectively Segura) for a year. Segura paid $600 for the first month's rent, $600 for a rental security deposit, and $150 as a deposit for electric utility service. Five days later, the city of Pasco Code Enforcement Office inspected the property and found that the Cabreras had converted the single family dwelling into a duplex without a permit and that the basement unit was uninhabitable. Accordingly, the city ordered Segura to vacate the premises within 20 days. Segura sought compensation from the Cabreras. The Cabreras did not respond to the letter. On July 19, the Cabreras gave Segura a notice to vacate by August 7, 2011. Segura claimed that after sending the demand letter but before this move-out deadline, Mr. Cabrera entered the unit without notice, changed the locks, removed some of Segura's personal property, and tried to have Segura's car towed from the property. Segura sued the Cabreras on July 26 for damages under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA). The Cabreras answered, alleging, as the only affirmative defense, that"[ d]efendant had no knowledge it was illegal." Segura moved for summary judgment, seeking money for rent, security deposit, utility deposit, relocation assistance and other expenses related to moving into a new home, plus $1,000.00 in emotional distress damages, and $5,209.55 in attorney fees. The trial court granted Segura's motion for summary judgment but rejected the request for emotional distress damages, concluding they were not recoverable under RCW 59.18.085(3). The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of emotional distress damages in a published, split decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of RCW 59.18.085 does not allow recovery for emotional distress. View "Segura v. Cabrera" on Justia Law