State Landlord-Tenant Laws For Washington

Overview

DEPOSIT

  • The maximum allowable deposit is 2x the monthly rent .
  • Landlords have 21 days to return the deposit after move out.
  • Landlords can deduct repairs beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent and utilities.
  • Landlords must provide and itemized list of any deposit deductions.
  • Landlords are not required to pay interest.

RENT INCREASE LAWS

  • No rent control laws.
  • Landlords must give 60 days notice when increasing rent.

NOTICES

  • Landlords must give at least 48 hours notice before entering the premise for repairs or inspections (except in the case of an emergency).

RE-KEYING LAWS

  • No statute.

RENTAL AGREEMENT

  • Rental agreements must be in writing for leases of a year or longer.
  • It is always advisable to have a written lease, even for shorter term leases.

LATE FEES & GRACE PERIODS

  • Landlords are allowed to charge a fair late fee of $20 or 20% of the rent, whichever is higher.
  • Late fees must be written in the lease.

SMOKING LAWS

  • No statute.

PET LAWS

  • Pet deposits, non-refundable pet fees, and/or monthly pet premiums are allowed.

SECTION 1

1. Washington Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

The rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords in Washington are covered in the Washington Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This act details the laws governing the state's landlord-tenant relationship. 

Below is a summary of some key aspects of Washington's landlord-tenant laws.

Tenant’s Rights and Responsibilities (RCW § 59.18.130)

Rights

  • Tenants have the right to reside in a safe, habitable rental property that satisfies state and local regulations.
  • Tenants have the right to get repairs done within 20 days after giving written notification to the landlord. 
  • Tenants have the right to take legal action against the landlord in the event any terms of the lease are broken.

Responsibilities

  • Tenants are required to pay all bills and utilities according to the terms specified in their lease.
  • Tenants must follow all landlord-tenant laws and regulations required by the state, city, or county. 
  • Tenants are required to maintain the rental unit's cleanliness and hygienic conditions, including prompt garbage removal. 
  • Tenants are required to use all fixtures in the rental unit as designed. 
  • Tenants must keep the smoke detector in working order in case of emergency.
  • Tenants are required to fumigate the rental space if an infestation, whether it is bugs or mold of some sort, occurs due to their negligence or actions. 
  • Tenants are required to request the permission of the landlord before remodeling or renovating any part of the rental unit.
  • Tenants are prohibited from engaging in any illegal behavior, including gang-related activities or illegal drug use.
  • Tenants are prohibited from being a nuisance to other renters or neighbors in the rental space.
  • Tenants are prohibited from purposely destroying or damaging any part of the rental property

Landlord’s Rights and Responsibilities (RCW § 59.18.060)

Rights

  • Landlords have the right to request and receive rent payments promptly.
  • Landlords have the right to collect security deposits to cover unanticipated expenses.
  • Landlords can legally evict a tenant who violates the lease terms or doesn't pay rent.

Responsibilities

  • Landlords are required to provide renters with a safe, livable rental property free from housing discrimination and in compliance with all applicable state and municipal laws.
  • landlords are required to carry out repairs on damages to the rental unit within 20 days of the renters' written notice.
  • Landlords are required to return a renter's security deposit within thirty days of the lease's expiration. 
  • Landlords are expected to take full responsibility for the elimination of any rodent or insect infestation that does not stem from the tenant's actions. 
  • Landlords are required to perform basic repairs to the house or apartment unless otherwise agreed upon in advance.
  • Landlords are expected to provide functional smoke detectors to the rental unit(s) and also ensure they are frequently tested to ensure they function in an emergency. 
  • Landlords are required to disclose their name and contact details to each and every tenant for maintenance and emergency situations.
  • Landlords are required to provide a receipt to tenants, whether they request it or not, in any case where rent is paid in cash. Also, if a tenant demands it, the landlord must also provide a receipt for any other type of payment.
  • Landlords are responsible for providing garbage collection services when more than one family occupies a single rental property (home or building). However, the landlord is not in charge of trash collection if the apartment is occupied by just one family.

Required Notices Before Entry

Are landlords in Washington required to give notice before entering the property?

Yes. In Washington, it is legally compulsory for landlords to give written notice of their intention to enter a rental unit for at least two days. This regulation does not apply, though, in the event of an emergency or when doing so would be impractical. Additionally, only appropriate hours are allowed for landlords to enter a rented property. (RCW § 59.18.150)

Are landlords in Washington allowed to enter the property to conduct maintenance and repairs?

Yes. Landlords are allowed to enter a rental unit when performing maintenance and repairs on a rental property. On the other hand, the tenants are entitled to adequate notice—at least two days—of the intended entry. 

Furthermore, it is illegal for tenants to unjustifiably deny their landlord access to the apartment so that the landlord can perform agreed-upon or essential repairs. (RCW § 59.18.150)

Late Fee for Rent in Washington

Under Washington law, landlords are allowed to charge a fair late fee of $20 or 20% of the rent, whichever is higher, when a rent is overdue as long as the late fee policy is clearly outlined in the lease agreement. (RCW § 19.150.150)

Source: Landlord/Tenant Rights — Washington State Bar Association, Washington Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

SECTION 2

2. Washington Rent Increase Laws

No state or county in Washington is permitted to enact a rent control law. (RCW § 35.21.830

Landlords therefore have a great deal of freedom when it comes to raising rents, as well as their limits and frequency. Nonetheless, before they can increase rent, they must legally give tenants enough notice.

Notice Required to Raise Rent in Washington

When deciding to raise rent, a landlord in Washington is required to give written notice of the change at least sixty days beforehand. (RCW § 59.18.140)

The city of Seattle is the only one that does not require 60 days' notice for increases intended to be 10% or more. According to Seattle Code 7.24.030, subsidized tenancies are exempt from this regulation and are instead required to give a 30-day notice.

Limitations on Washington Rent Increase Laws

  • Unless the lease agreement permits rent increases during the lease term, the landlord is not permitted to increase the rent after the lease expires if the lease agreement specifies a fixed rent sum. 
  • Landlords are also prohibited from discriminating against renters who have asserted their legal rights by raising rent in retribution.

Source: Rule Changes & Rent Increases — Tenants Union of Washington State

SECTION 3

2. Washington Rental Agreement Laws

While Washington recognizes and accepts oral lease agreements, state laws mandate that there must be a written rental agreements if the lease is a year or longer. However, since a formal lease can act as documentation of all agreements, it is usually advised to get one regardless of the tenancy type. 

The details required in a rental agreement can change based on the landlord, the tenant, and the state legislation in effect at the time. Nonetheless, these agreements typically contain certain fundamental rules to avoid any legal problems between the parties. 

The following is a list of requirements that landlords are required to put in their leases: 

  • A description of the leased real estate. 
  • Rental payments. 
  • Security deposits. 
  • Terms and conditions for moving out and ending the lease

Source: RCW § 59.20.060

SECTION 4

4. Washington Tenant Deposit Laws

What Is The Maximum Allowable Deposit In Washington?

Most states in the U.S. usually allow landlords to charge a security deposit up to one or two months' worth of rent. However, there is no statue limiting the deposit amount in Washington. 

As such landlords in Washington can charge as much as they want for a security deposit. That being said, landlords should be mindful of local or municipal laws, if any exist, that might specify the statutory limit on deposits.

Are Pet Deposits Allowed In Washington?

Pet deposits, non-refundable pet fees, and/or monthly pet premiums are allowed in Washington, however, local governments are free to set their own regulations in this area. (RCW §§ 59.18.285)

What Can Landlords Deduct From The Deposit In Washington?

A landlord is permitted by Washington law to deduct funds from the security deposit in order to pay for the following: 

  • Overdue rent 
  • Damage to the property that goes beyond typical wear and tear 
  • Hefty cleaning expenses in the event that the apartment was left excessively unclean by the tenant 
  • Tenant fails to pay utility bills 
  • The cost to replace, repair, or refurbish any furniture that comes with the apartment 

Should a landlord deduct from the deposit they must provide an ietmized list of damages and charges. (RCW §§ 59.18.280)

How Must Landlords Hold Security Deposits In Washington?

Landlords in Washington State have three choices when it comes to holding onto a tenant's security deposit. 

In the first scenario, an escrow agent can hold onto the tenant's security deposit on behalf of the landlord. The agent needs to be in Washington State and have a license. 

Landlords also have the option of keeping security deposits held by tenants with a nationally reputable banking institution. These financial entities include banks, trust companies, credit unions, and loans and savings societies. 

Landlords can retain it in a trust account under the third option. You must open this kind of account specifically to hold your renters' security deposits. In the event that interest is owed on the account, the landlord will automatically receive the interest. 

If both the landlord and the tenant agree, however, then alternative terms may apply. Any agreement should be documented in writing. 

However the landlord decides to hold the deposit, they muct provide the tenant with a written receipt for the deposit including the notice of the name and address and location of the depository and any subsequent changes. (RCW §§ 59.18.270)

How Long Do Landlords Have To Return A Deposit In Washington?

According to Washington's landlord-tenant laws, a landlord has 21 days from the date of the tenant's departure to repay the security deposit. (RCW §§ 59.18.280)

Partial or full refunds of the deposit are possible. If just a portion of the deposit is returned, the landlord is required to provide the renter with a security deposit return letter outlining the deductions and their associated costs. The notification and the remaining sum must then be sent to the renter by the landlord. 

A landlord can give the renter the statement and deposit in a few different ways.

Initially, it will be delivered by hand to the tenant's last-known address. Secondly, by physically presenting it to the former tenant in person. Thirdly, by sending the papers through first-class mail in the United States. 

If the landlord disregards these guidelines, there could be consequences. The landlord may also be required to reimburse the renter for up to double the amount of the deposit, in addition to covering the tenant's legal fees and court costs. However, these guidelines can be applicable if the renter decides to vacate the rental property.

Do Landlords Need To Pay Security Deposit Interest?

Landlords in Washington are not required to pay interest on security deposits.

Source:RCW § 59.18.610, RCW § 59.18.260.

SECTION 5

5. Washington Eviction Laws & Notices

Grounds for Eviction in Washington

A landlord may lawfully evict a tenant for the reasons listed below. 

Failure to Pay Rent

Landlords have the right to use the eviction procedure to remove the renter from the property if they do not pay the rent as scheduled.

Criminal Activity

It is forbidden for tenants to commit crimes while occupying a rented home, and they risk eviction if they do. Landlords have the right to start the eviction process if the renter is detained and found guilty of selling narcotics while residing in the rental home.

Major Property Damage

Tenants owe it to landlords to protect the property you've given them. Landlords can initiate eviction procedures against tenants who seriously damage the property. 

Breach of the Lease Agreement

In Washington, it’s mandated that the conditions of the tenancy between the landlord and tenant be outlined in a formal written lease agreement. Tenants who break the conditions of the lease may face eviction in specific situations.

Washington Eviction Notices

Regardless of the kind of tenancy, tenants must be given a 20 days' Washington eviction notice. The landlord may proceed to file an eviction lawsuit in order to remove the tenant from the property if they continue to occupy the rented space after their notice period has expired.

Notices Required To terminate A Tenancy With Cause in Washington

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No notice is needed as the lease simply expires. (RCW §§ 59.04.030)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease (or other periodic term): 20 days or more from lease expiration. Less than 20 days notice is allowed for any tenant who is a member of the armed forces and receives deployment orders. (RCW §§ 59.18.200(1a-b))
  • Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: 3 days (RCW §§ 59.12.030(3)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: 10 days (RCW §§ 59.12.030(4)), 3 days for illegal or nuisance activity. (RCW §§ 59.12.030(5))

Washington Eviction Process

Here's an overview of the Washington eviction process:

  • Landlords give a tenant a three-fourteen day Washington notice to quit. 
  • If the tenant ignores the notice, the landlord can proceed to file a court case for eviction. 
  • The court will send a summon to the tenant 
  • The tenant is expected to submit a response to the summons. 
  • Tenants and landlords attend court proceedings and are given a ruling. 
  • If the court rules in favour of the landlord, the tenant has three days to vacate. 
  • If afterwards the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord can request the help of the local sheriff to come back to evict the renter by force. 

Source: (RCW § 59.18.650), (RCW § 59.18.057)

SECTION 6

6. Washington Rental Application Laws

All specifics about Washington rental applications in are contained in the state code, RCW § 59.18.257

There’s a cap on how much a landlord can charge as application fees in Washington. Landlords cannot charge more than their expenses during the screening procedure for potential tenants as the application fee. 

Also, they are required to provide written notice outlining the screening process criteria to potential tenants before collecting any fees. 

For background checks, landlords are allowed to look into the renters' past living arrangements, financial position, and history of offenses, among other things. However, there are regulations surrounding background checks to guarantee that these investigations respect tenants' rights to privacy while providing landlords with crucial information.

The Fair Housing Laws of the State of Washington also have a big impact on rental applications. This legislation expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity), familial status (including pregnancy or having children), and disability, among other categories. 

(RCW § 59.18.580) also provides extra protection for victims of sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and domestic abuse. Landlords cannot deny them housing based on their background as survivors. 

Finally, if the landlord decides not to rent to an applicant after evaluating their information through a tenant screening service they must give an adverse action notice to the individual outlining why they were denied. This is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. (RCW § 19.182)

Source: RCW § 59.18.257, Fair Credit Reporting Act.

SECTION 7

7. Breaking a Lease in Washington

The legal foundation pertaining to early breakage and lease terminations is outlined in RCW § 59.18.352 and RCW § 59.18.354, which are explicitly part of the Washington Landlord-Tenant Act.

When Breaking a Lease Is Justified in Washington

Here are some of the situations where tenants can legally break a lease agreement in Washington.

 Active Military Duty

Federal law gives tenants the right to break a lease if they signed it before going into active military service. 

If a tenant wants to end a tenancy for military reasons, they must notify the landlord in writing. Even if the next rent due date is several months before the lease expires, the tenancy will end 30 days after the notification is mailed or delivered.

The Rental Unit is Unsafe or Violates Washington Health or Safety Codes

A court would likely determine that a tenant has been "constructively evicted" if the landlord fails to provide habitable housing in accordance with local and state housing codes. This implies that the landlord has effectively "evicted" the tenant by providing unlivable housing, and as a result, the tenant is no longer obligated to pay rent. 

(RCW § 59.18.100,.110,.115)

Victim of Domestic Violence or Stalking

Tenants who are victims of domestic violence, unlawful harassment, or stalking may be eligible for an early termination under state law, subject to certain requirements being fulfilled (such as the tenant reporting the domestic violence or other act to law enforcement or another qualified third party). (RCW § 59.18.575)

Landlord’s Harassment or Violation of Privacy Rights

In the event that a landlord consistently infringes upon a tenant’s privacy rights, or takes actions such as removing doors or windows, disconnecting utilities, or changing the locks, the tenant will be deemed to have been "constructively evicted," as previously mentioned; this will typically excuse the tenant from breaking the terms of the lease without having to pay additional rent.

Violations That Allow Landlords to End the Lease

In Washington, if a tenant violates any of the provisions of the lease or does anything that the Landlord-Tenant Laws specify calls for termination, the landlord has the authority to terminate the agreement. 

Requirement for Written Notice to End Some Leases

Landlord-tenant laws in Washington state require written notice in certain situations in order to terminate certain lease agreements. 

For example, in order to legally terminate a month-to-month lease, landlords must give at least a 20 days' written Washington notice to quit, and tenants must give at least 20 days' written notice before the end of the rental period. 

In fixed-term leases, written notice is usually required 20 days prior to the lease's expiration date. 

A breach of these notice provisions could result in legal disputes.

Source:War and National Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Washington Landlord-Tenant Act.

SECTION 8

8. HOA Laws in Washington

Here are some of the Washington HOA laws that govern the creation and operation of HOAs in the state.

Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (WUCIOA)

In Washington, the WUCIOA is in charge of overseeing homeowners' associations. All common interest communities, including planned developments and condominiums, are covered by this act. 

It describes the rules for the creation, conduct, and administration of these kinds of organizations and was passed into law in 2018. Furthermore, it manages issues like association governance, evaluations, operational responsibilities, and conflict resolution.  

Washington Condominium Act

The Washington Condominium Act regulates condominiums in Washington. It was enacted in 1990 and sets down the rules that govern the creation, upkeep, and management of condominiums. 

The act outlines the requirements for condominium incorporation, outlines the responsibilities and rights of homeowners, and governs association operations. 

Washington State Civil Rights Act

The Washington State Civil Rights Act safeguards the right to equitable access to all accessible homes. It forbids discrimination on the grounds of national origin, race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, family status, and handicap.

Federal Flag Display Law

There are additional federal laws that you should be aware of in addition to the state ones that were previously discussed. Among these is the federal flag display statute. This law establishes guidelines for flying the American flag, which are outlined in the United States Flag Code. 

It covers topics including proper handling, treating others with decency, and when flags should be flown. This statute prohibits HOAs from prohibiting or limiting the flying of the US national flag.

Sources:

SECTION 9

9. Squatters Rights in Washington

According to Washington squatter rights law, someone who has resided on a piece of land for an extended period of time is eligible to become the legal owner. In this instance, they had to have moved into the apartment and remained there for a minimum of ten years straight.

Adverse Possession Claim

Squatters who wish to obtain legal rights to property may file an adverse possession claim, but in order to do so, they must fulfill a number of prerequisites, which include the following:

Hostile Possession

In order to establish adverse possession through legal action, a squatter must demonstrate hostile occupation. It need not, however, be aggressive or imply any threat.

Open and Notorious Possession

In addition, if squatters intend to assert adverse possession, they cannot conceal the fact that they have moved into the property and are residents. It should be obvious to anyone—including a landlord—that someone has squatted on the unit if they make a sincere attempt to find out its status.

Actual Possession

Similar to other states, squatters need to provide proof of their present residence and use of the land by keeping track of any renovations or beautifying projects they carry out. 

Washington, however, has a slightly different statute. If someone has lived on forestland and intends to file an adverse possession claim, they will need to spend more than $50,000 on significant modifications.

Continuous Possession

Squatters in this state, contingent on occupancy conditions, have two choices for demonstrating continuous possession. If they have resided in the apartment for ten years straight, they are eligible to file an adverse possession claim. The time is seven years for those who have paid property taxes and hold the color of title. 

Exclusive Possession

Legal action to acquire legal ownership of a property is only possible for squatters who have not cohabitated with landlords, renters, or other squatters. 

Termination of Unapproved Tenancy (Squatters)

Unapproved tenant is liable for rent for the time he/she occupied the dwelling and must turnover the premise immediately at the demand of the owner. (RCW §§ 59.04.050)

Sources: RCW Section 9A.52.105, RCW Section 9A.52.115, Squatters | Clark County Washington.