Whenever there is a lease, either verbal or written, Washington laws (Revised Code of Washington Chapter 59.18) allow tenants to obtain certain rights, for example, the right to obtain receipts for every payment and the right to know where the security deposit is being held.
The landlord has rights, such as, the right to the interest earned by security deposit or to recover payment for damages caused beyond normal wear and tear.
Note: These rights are automatic, which means they attach to either party even if the lease does not provide for them.
Landlord Responsibilities in Washington
Washington landlords are required to meet certain statewide (and sometimes local) habitability standards and make necessary repairs to make the unit livable. If the habitability issue is an emergency and includes heat, water or electricity landlords have 24 hours to fix the issue. Landlords have 72 hours to fix an issue that involves the refrigerator, oven, range, or a major plumbing issue. All other issues must be corrected within 10 days. If they do not fix the issue, a Washington tenant has the right to take alternative action by hiring a licensed contractor and deducting the actual costs from future rent payments.
Below is a list of common services that a Washington landlord may or may not be responsible (under state law) for providing and maintaining:
|Structural components ( )||Yes|
|Cooling (air conditioning)||Not addressed|
|Hot and cold running water||Yes|
Note: If a landlord provides an amenity not required by law, then they are generally responsible for maintaining it throughout tenancy. Also, Washington state law prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants who request repairs or report uninhabitable housing conditions to local enforcement authorities.
Tenant Responsibilities in Washington
Washington tenants must pay rent on time in accordance with their lease. They must also avoid causing undue property damage. To that end, they are also legally required to do the following:
- Keep the rental clean and sanitary.
- Remove rubbish from the unit in a timely manner.
- Use all electrical, gas, heating, and plumbing fixtures as intended.
- Maintain the smoke detector.
- Not negligently destroy or damage any part of the premises.
- Not allow any nuisances or common waste.
- Not engage in any illegal activity, gang-related activity, or drug-related activity on the premises.
Evictions in Washington
Washington landlords can initiate and complete the eviction process in one to three months (or longer). The following are grounds for evictions.
- Nonpayment of Rent – Rent is due on the day specified in the lease agreement. If it is not paid at that time, a Washington landlord may issue a 14-Day Notice to Pay. The tenant can pay the past due amount within 14 days to avoid eviction.
- Violation of Lease Terms – Washington tenants must meet the obligations of their lease at all times. If their landlord observes that they have not, they may issue a 10-Day Notice to Comply that provides terms for remedying the infraction. A 30-Day Notice to Comply shall be given for any noncompliance that substantially affects the health and safety of the tenant or others. If the violation is not curable, including criminal activity, waste, nuisances on the rental property and unlawful business, the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit. If there is illegal drug activity, physical assault (resulting in arrest), unlawful use of firearm or deadly weapon (resulting in arrest), or gang-related activity, the landlord may proceed directly to filing an unlawful detainer action. In these instances, no prior notice is needed.
However, certain types of evictions (including lockouts and retaliatory evictions connected to the filing of a health or safety complaint) are illegal in Washington.
Security Deposits in Washington
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – None.
- Time Limit for Return – 14 days (without deductions), 21 days (with deductions).
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – The full security deposit plus a penalty of up to 2x the deposit’s original value.
- Allowable Deductions – Any reason outlined in the lease agreement.
Lease Termination in Washington
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Tenancy-at-Will Notice Requirement. Month-to-month tenants in Washington must always provide 20 days of advance notice before terminating their lease.
Fixed-Term Early Termination. In Washington, a fixed-term lease can be terminated early for any of the following reasons:
- Early termination clause.
- Relocation due to active military duty.
- Documented habitability violation.
- Landlord harassment.
- Domestic violence.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Washington
- Rent control. Washington law currently preempts state or local rent control. As a result, landlords can charge as much as they want for rent.
- Raising rent. Washington landlords can raise rent for any reason that is not discriminatory or retaliatory. A 30-day written notice must proceed all rent increases.
- Additional fees. Washington landlords can charge whatever fees they want as well as set the rates for those fees. There are a few exceptions, including for bounced check fees ($40 or the value of the check).
Housing Discrimination in Washington
Protected groups. The Washington Law Against Discrimination
protects tenants of most housing types from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex,, or disability. Washington law also provides additional protections for the following groups:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Participation in a Section 8 Program
- Veteran/military status
- HIV/ Hepatitis C status
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. In Washington, the following actions may be considered discriminatory with regards to housing practices:
- Falsely representing the availability of a unit
- Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges between tenants
- Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling in a manner that indicates a discriminatory preference
- Failing to provide reasonable accommodations
- Enforcing a “neutral rule” that disproportionately impacts one or more classes of tenants over another
To learn more or report discrimination, please visit the Washington State Human Rights Commission’s website.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Washington
Landlord Right to Entry in Washington
In most standard instances, a Washington landlord must provide 2 days of notice before entering an occupied unit. This includes occasions where repairs are being made or the space is being shown to a prospective tenant. A Washington landlord may enter without permission in cases of emergency, however.
If proper notice is not given or a right to entry is abused to harass a tenant’s privacy, an affected Washington tenant may use it as grounds for lease termination.
Small Claims Court in Washington
Washington’s small claims courts will hear many types of landlord-tenant disputes valued at valued at more than $250 but less than $5,000. These courts do not hear eviction cases, though. Also, Washington allows individual counties to raise or lower the aforementioned filing limits.
Mandatory Disclosures in Washington
All Washington landlords must make the following disclosures to their tenants:
- Lead-Based Paint – For buildings built before 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead-based paint hazards. Read more here.
- Authorized Authorities – Washington landlords must disclose their own address and phone number to all tenants. This disclosure must also provide the same information for all owners and property managers for that tenant’s property.
- Fire Safety and Protection– Washington landlords must inform tenants of their own responsibility to maintain their smoke detectors. They must also disclose the following related pieces of information:
- Whether the smoke detection device is hard-wired, or battery operated
- Whether the building has a fire sprinkler system
- Whether the building has a fire alarm system
- Whether the building has a smoking policy, and what that policy is
- Whether the building has an emergency notification, evacuation, and/or relocation plan for the occupants (and if so, a copy of that plan must be provided)
- Mold – Landlords in Washington state must provide information approved by a local health department relating to mold in residential dwellings. This information must include how a tenant can prevent mold growth.
- Security Deposit Holdings – Washington state landlords must disclose where and through what kind of account they are maintaining a tenant’s security deposit.
- Move-In Checklist – Applicable to any lease where a security deposit is charged, the landlord must provide a move-in checklist that takes inventory of the dwelling unit.
- Fees – If there is a nonrefundable fee (such as a pet fee), the landlord must disclose this information to the tenant in the lease agreement.
- Voter Registration Packet – For any property located in Seattle, landlords must distribute voter registration packets.
Changing the Locks in Washington.
In Washington, domestic abuse victims may request a lock change (at their own expense). Landlords, on the other hand, cannot unilaterally change a tenant’s lock. If they do, they may face penalties for precipitating an illegal lockout.
Local Laws in Washington
Seattle Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Seattle maintains a Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance, which requires landlords to provide 180 days of advance notice before they implement an increase of housing cost. This ordinance also limits the amounts and values of certain fees charged by landlords. More information on it can be found here.
Spokane Landlord Tenant Rights
Spokane is currently considering a number of local housing ordinances, including one to implement a “just cause” standard for evictions. Updates on these legislative efforts can be found on the city’s website.
Tacoma Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Tacoma maintains a Tenant Rights Ordinance. This requires landlords to issue 90 days of written notice when a tenant’s property is being modified or demolished. More info on this ordinance can be found here.
Additionally, please check with your local Washington county or municipality for additional rules and protections for both landlords and tenants.