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Silver v. Rudeen Management Company, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

October 1, 2019

THOMAS SILVER, an individual, and all those similarly situated, Appellant,
v.
RUDEEN MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC., a Washington corporation, Respondent.

          KORSMO, J.

         Thomas Silver appeals from the dismissal at summary judgment of his class action against a property management company. We affirm the trial court's determination that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

         FACTS

         Mr. Silver rented an apartment managed by respondent Rudeen Management Company for about 40 months. Upon entering into the tenancy, Mr. Silver paid Rudeen a $300 damage deposit. He vacated the premises June 30, 2015, after giving timely notice of his intention. On that same day, Rudeen provided Silver a "preliminary" "Deposit Disposition" statement. The disposition claimed Silver owed $2, 516.00 for excessive wear and tear. On August 18, 2015, Rudeen sent Silver a "final" "Deposit Disposition" statement claiming a revised amount of $2, 281.35 for excessive wear and tear.

         Rudeen sometime thereafter began efforts to collect on its claim. Silver responded by filing this action. On August 10, 2017, he filed a complaint for damages against Rudeen. The complaint asserted the existence of a class of plaintiffs and a single cause of action: a contention that Rudeen had violated the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1973 (RLTA), ch. 59.18 RCW, by not providing within twenty-one days a final statement concerning the damage deposit pursuant to RCW 59.18.280. Plaintiff requested that the court refund each class member's security deposit, give each class member double the amount of the deposit, and award attorney fees costs. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 10.

         Rudeen eventually moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action was filed outside the two-year statute of limitations. Silver contended that his action was subject to the three-year statute of limitations governing recovery of personal property. The trial court concluded that the only cause of action asserted was a violation of the RLTA governed by a two-year statute of limitations. The court granted summary judgment and dismissed the case for untimely filing.

         Mr. Silver timely appealed to this court. A panel considered his appeal without hearing oral argument.

         ANALYSIS

         The sole issue presented is whether the two- or three-year statute of limitations period applied to this complaint. We agree with the trial court that the two-year period applied.

         The issue of which statute of limitations applies is a legal question that this court considers de novo. Sorey v. Barton Oldsmobile, 82 Wn.App. 800, 802, 919 P.2d 1276 (1996). If there is uncertainty about which statute applies, "the longer statute will be applied." Stenberg v. Pac. Power & Light Co., 104 Wn.2d 710, 715, 709 P.2d 793 (1985).

         The RLTA does not contain a statute of limitations. Typically, when a statute does not contain its own statute of limitations, RCW 4.16.130 applies. That statute provides:

An action for relief not hereinbefore provided for, shall be commenced within two years after the cause of action shall have accrued.

         However, not every cause of action predicated on statutory liability is subject to the two-year statute of limitations. Sorey, 82 Wn.App. at 805. Here, Mr. Silver argues that a three-year limitation period applies:

An action for taking, detaining, or injuring personal property, including an action for the specific recovery thereof, or for any other injury to the person or rights ...

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