Washington Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Washington landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to the Washington Landlord Tenant Act.

WA Landlord Tenant Law

  • Revised Code of Washington Chapter 59.18 - Residential Landlord Tenant Act

Tenant Application

Application Fees

Before charging prospective tenants for background and credit checks, the landlord has to do inform them of the following in writing:

  1. What tenant screening involves
  2. Their rights to dispute the information provided by the tenant screening service or others
  3. Name and address of tenant screening service

Whether the landlord uses a tenant screening service or conducts his or her own screening, the amount charged has to be reasonable (e.g. $25 to $30).  RCW 59.18.257 (1)

If the landlord violates Washington landlord tenant laws for screening tenants, the tenant can recover up to $100 plus court costs and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.257 (4)

Background and Credit Check

You can screen tenant applicants with a background check or full credit report from RentPrep.

A background check will show a person's history of addresses, evictions, bankruptcies, judgments and liens.

A full credit report comes with a basic background check, credit check plus criminal check. A basic background check shows a person's history of addresses, evictions and bankruptcies.

Landlords do not need the tenant or applicant's consent to run background and credit checks.  Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)

Avoiding Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from discriminating against prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, sex, *familial status, national origin or physical/mental handicap.  42 U.S.C. § 3604

*Familial status - pregnant women and families with person(s) under 18.

In addition, Washington landlord tenant law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran's status or marital status.  RCW 49.60.222

However if the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them, then he or she won't have to follow the above Fair Housing laws.  42 U.S.C. § 3603(b)

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Tenancy Agreement

(also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement)

Whether you're a landlord or tenant, it's important to have a written lease agreement with terms and conditions that favors you and follows your state laws.

To save time and avoid mistakes, you can customize your own lease agreement at LawDepot. This site will ask you a set of questions related to your tenancy and create a state-specific agreement based on your answers.

If there is rental agreement is written, the landlord must give the tenant a signed copy and the tenant can also request for a free replacement copy during the tenancy.  RCW 59.18.065

What Landlord Must Disclose

Before entering into a rental agreement, Washington landlord tenant law requires the landlord to disclose the following to the tenant:

  • Fire Safety: The landlord must inform the tenant in writing that there is a smoke detector in the rental unit and that the tenant has to maintain it in working condition.  RCW 59.18.060 (11)(a)
  • Mold: The landlord must give the tenant written information (written by the health department) about the health hazards of indoor mold. The landlord can give this information to the tenant in person or post it at a highly visible and public location at the rental unit.  RCW 59.18.060 (12)
  • Lead Paint: If the property was built before 1978, the landlord must inform prospective tenants if the property contains lead-based paint. In addition, the landlord has to give them a pamphlet of Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.  Health and Safety Code Section 17920.10

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.060 (14) requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the property
  • Name and address or property owner or owner's agent (person authorized to act on behalf of owner)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.230 (2), your lease agreement CANNOT:

  • make the tenant give up any legal rights or remedies under the Washington Landlord and Tenant Act
  • permit the tenant to authorize another person to confess judgment (on a claim arising from the rental agreement)
  • make the tenant pay for the landlord's attorney fees (unless allowed by Washington landlord tenant law)
  • dismiss or limit the landlord's liability when they have failed in their duties
  • allow the landlord and tenant to agree on a particular arbitrator when entering into the rental agreement

If the landlord deliberately included any prohibited terms and conditions, the tenant can sue the landlord for actual damages and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.230 (3)

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Security Deposit

If the landlord wants to collect deposits from the tenant, the rental agreement must be in writing and the landlord has to give the tenant a written checklist describing the property's condition before the tenancy begins.  RCW 59.18.260

In addition, the written rental agreement must state the terms and conditions for deposit deductions and the checklist must be signed and dated by the landlord.

If the tenant requests for it, the landlord must provide a written receipt for any payments received from the tenant.  RCW 59.18.063

Holding Security Deposit

Washington landlord tenant law requires the landlord to hold the security deposit in a trust account of a financial institution or licensed escrow agent in Washington. The landlord can combine security deposits from multiple tenants into a single account, but cannot mix the deposits with other funds.  RCW 59.18.270

The landlord gets to keep any interest earned by the trust account (unless he or she agrees to forgo it in the lease agreement).

After receiving the deposit, the landlord has to give the tenant a receipt with the name and address of the deposit account.

Deductions and Returns

Washington landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions in writing.
  
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Washington landlord tenant law) include:

  • Rent owed
  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant's guests

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.  RCW 59.18.260


Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit by first class mail within 14 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing.  RCW 59.18.280

If the landlord fails to send this list and remaining deposit within 14 days, the landlord shall have to return the full deposit amount to the tenant.

Change of Property Owner

If the landlord transfers his or her ownership of the property to another person, the landlord shall transfer the security deposit to the new owner. The new owner must inform the tenant of this transfer plus the name and address of the new deposit account.  RCW 59.18.270

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Seattle, Washington WA

Washington Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

If the tenant requests for it, the landlord must provide a written receipt for any payments received from the tenant.  RCW 59.18.063

Late Rent

There are no Washington landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.

If the landlord wants to impose late rent charges, it has to be specified in the tenancy agreement. While there are no state laws on late fees, landlords cannot overcharge or impose unfair terms. Otherwise the tenant can refuse to pay and challenge the late fees in court.

Most states consider reasonable late fees to be around 3 to 5% of the rent amount. In addition, landlords should wait until rent payment is at least three days late before charging late fees.

Raising Rent

According to the Washington Landlord Tenant Act, the landlord can choose to raise the rent by any amount.

For a month to month tenancy, the landlord has to notify the tenant of a rent increase at least 30 days in advance.  The tenant can then choose to pay the higher rent or move out. If the tenant chooses to leave, he or she should give the landlord a written 30 day notice to quit.  RCW 59.18.140

For a fixed term tenancy, the landlord isn't allowed to raise the rent until the tenancy expires.

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Property Maintenance

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Washington Landlord Tenant Act RCW 59.18.060 requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition:

  • Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable (including roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces and foundations)
  • Common Areas: Keep all common areas clean and safe
  • Pest Control: Exterminate all insect, rodent and pest infestation (unless it is caused by the tenant)
  • Maintenance: Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating and other facilities in safe working condition
  • Weather Protection: Waterproof and protect roof and exterior walls against the weather.
  • Waste Disposal: Provide outlets for waste disposal and arrange for waste removal (except for single family residences)
  • Heating: Supply running water, hot water and heating (as far as conditions allow)

Tenant Duties and Responsibilities

Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.130 also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition:

  • Cleanliness: Keep the property clean and safe (as far as conditions will allow). Restore the property to its original condition once the lease terminates
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose all waste from the property in a clean and safe manner
  • Pest Control:  Exterminate all insect, rodent and pest infestation caused by the tenant
  • Property Damage: Avoid property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by the tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Drug-related Activities: Avoid all drug-related activities on property by the tenant or any other person
  • Smoke Detectors: Maintain smoke detectors in working condition  RCW 59.18.060 (11)(a)
  • Disallowed Activities: Avoid hazardous activities, physical assault, unlawful firearm use and gang-related activities on the property by the tenant or any other person

If Landlord Fails to Perform Duties

If the landlord fails in his or her duties (see Landlord Duties and Responsibilities above), the tenant can send the landlord a written notice stating the problems and how much time landlord has to correct them.  RCW 59.18.070

The amount of time for the landlord to make repairs depends on the problem:

  • 24 hours: Hazardous condition OR lack of hot water, cold water, heat or electricity.
  • 72 hours: Non-working refrigerator, range, oven or major plumbing fixture provided by the landlord
  • 10 days: All other problems

If the landlord fails to correct the problems within the above deadlines and repairs won't cost more than one month's rent, the tenant can submit a cost estimate of the repairs to the landlord (or landlord's agent) in person or by certified mail. The tenant can then proceed to hire a qualified person to make repairs and deduct the costs from rent. The tenant can deduct a maximum of one month's rent for repairs for any 12 month period.  RCW 59.18.100

If Landlord Deliberately Terminates Utility Services

If the landlord terminates any utility services such as water, heat, electricity or gas on purpose (unless it is required for repairs), the tenant can sue the landlord for actual damages and up to $100 per day without utilities plus court costs and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.300

If Tenant Fails to Perform Duties

If the tenant fails in his or her duties (see Tenant Duties and Responsibilities above), the landlord can send the tenant a written notice stating the problems and giving the tenant 30 days to correct it.  RCW 59.18.180

If the tenant fails to fix the problem within 30 days (or soon as possible for emergencies), the landlord can enter the property for repairs and then submit the repair bills to the tenant. The tenant has to pay the bills when the next rent is due or immediately if the rental agreement has terminated.

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.150 (1), the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons:

  • Inspecting property
  • Performing property maintenance or repairs
  • Supplying essential (or mutually agreed) services and utilities
  • Showing property to prospective buyers, lenders, tenants, workmen or contractors

In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant at least two days in advance before entering the property. The landlord can only enter the property with the tenant's consent and during reasonable hours.  RCW 59.18.150 (5)

The tenant cannot deny access if the landlord has a valid reason to enter the property. If the tenant violates this law, the landlord can send the tenant a written notice stating the violation date and time. If the tenant violates this law for the second time, the landlord can sue the tenant for up to $100 per violation plus court costs and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.150 (7)

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.150 (4),(6), the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations:

  • Emergencies such as smoke, fire, flooding or explosion
  • Tenant has abandoned the property
  • Court order granting landlord access to the property

If Landlord Enters Property Illegally

The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required by Washington landlord tenant law) to enter the property.

If the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can send the landlord a written notice stating the violation date and time. If the tenant violates this law for the second time, the landlord can sue the tenant for up to $100 per violation plus court costs and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.150 (7)

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Subletting

There are no specific Washington landlord tenant laws on subletting.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • Is the tenant allowed to sublet the property? If yes, is the landlord's written consent required before the tenant can sublet?
  • Is the landlord allowed to screen and reject every prospective subtenant?
  • Can the landlord ask for additional rent and security deposit if the tenant sublets?

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Tacoma, Washington WA

Tacoma, Washington WA

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Before terminating a tenancy, Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.18.200 (1)(a) requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit in advance:

Month to month tenancy

30 days

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Tenant is deployed in the armed forces

20 days

Tenant or household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking

Immediate

Tenant is Deployed in the Armed Forces

Washington landlord tenant law allows a service member (or member's spouse/dependent) to terminate the tenancy agreement if he or she receives reassignment or deployment orders.  RCW 59.18.200 (1)(b)

The tenant can terminate the rental agreement by giving the landlord a written 20 day notice to quit AND a copy of the reassignment or deployment orders (within seven days of receiving the orders).  RCW 59.18.220 (2)

Tenant or Household Member is a Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking

The tenant can terminate the rental agreement immediately by informing the landlord in writing that the tenant or household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking AND giving the landlord a copy of the protection order or qualified third party report.  RCW 59.18.575 (1)

Once the tenant terminates the rental agreement, he or she shall have to continue paying rent until the end of the month. The landlord has to return all security deposits (after deductions) to the tenant.  RCW 59.18.575 (2)

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Eviction

According to Washington landlord tenant law RCW 59.12.030, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit:

Tenant did not pay rent

10 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement

10 days

Tenant was involved in illegal activities on property

3 days

Tenant deliberately caused property damage

3 days

Whether you are a landlord evicting someone or a tenant facing eviction, it's important that you handle matters correctly according to your state laws.

If you have any questions or doubts on eviction, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.

Tenant Did Not Pay Rent

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a 10 day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within 10 days.

If the rent is paid within 10 days, then tenancy shall continue.  RCW 59.04.040

Tenant Violated Tenancy Agreement

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement, the landlord can send the tenant a written 10 day notice to terminate the tenancy.  RCW 59.12.030 (4)

This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation or failure in duty. If the tenant corrects the problem within 10 days, then the tenancy shall continue.  RCW 59.12.030 (4)

Eviction Notice

Also known as "Notice of Termination of Tenancy" or "Notice to Quit", the landlord can serve an eviction notice to the tenant with any following method:

  • Give the notice to the tenant in person
  • Leave the notice with someone of suitable age at the rental unit AND mail a copy of it to the tenant if tenant is absent
  • Post the notice at a highly visible location at the property AND mail a copy of it to the tenant if no one is present at the property  RCW 59.12.040

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Abandonment

When is it Abandonment?

According to the Washington Landlord Tenant Act RCW 59.18.310, the tenant has abandoned the property when BOTH conditions are met:

  1. Tenant is late in paying rent.
  2. Tenant has shown through words or actions that he or she doesn't intend to resume the tenancy.

Once the property is abandoned, the landlord may enter it immediately and re-rent it.

For a month to month tenancy, the tenant shall have to pay rent until the next rent payment date.  RCW 59.18.310 (1)

For tenancies with longer rental periods, the abandoning tenant will be responsible for paying rent until the tenancy ends. If a new tenant is found before the tenancy ends, then the abandoning tenant can stop paying rent once the new tenant moves in. In this case, the tenant still has to pay the landlord for the costs of re-renting the property plus court costs and attorney fees.  RCW 59.18.310 (2)

Dealing with Abandoned Belongings

If the tenant abandoned the property and left his or her personal belongings behind, the landlord must send a written notice with the following details to the tenant:

  • Landlord's name and address
  • Where the belongings are stored
  • When the belongings will be sold or disposed (45 days after notice is delivered)
  • Tenant can claim the belongings before they are sold or disposed  RCW 59.18.310 (2)

The landlord has to deliver this notice to the tenant in person or by first class mail (postage prepaid) to the tenant's last known address.

To claim his or her belongings, the tenant has to inform the landlord and pay for the costs of moving and storing the belongings.

If the tenant doesn't recover the belongings within 45 days, the landlord can choose to sell or dispose the belongings. The landlord sell the belongings to pay for the following:

  • Cost of moving and storing the abandoned belongings
  • Any remaining rent owed or damages that the tenant is responsible for (after deducting from the security deposit first)

Any leftover revenue shall be paid to the tenant. If the tenant doesn't claim it within one year, then the landlord shall get to keep it.

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Resources

Washington Landlord Tenant Law: Washington Residential Landlord Tenant Act

Washington Landlord Tenant Handbook: Washington Landlord Tenant Rights

If you have any questions or need legal advice, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.

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