Washington Landlord Tenant Rights

Washington Landlord Tenant Rights

Last Updated: June 5, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Under Washington law, if a written or oral rental agreement exists, or if payment is accepted as rent, landlords and tenants have automatic rights and responsibilities under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, such as the right to timely rent payments and a livable dwelling.

Note: These rights exist regardless of what the rental agreement says.

Landlord Responsibilities in Washington

In Washington, landlords legally can’t rent property out unless it meets basic health and safety requirements. Here is a list of amenities and how they relate to Washington’s habitability requirements:

Item Has to Provide? Has to Fix/Replace?
Heating/AC Only Heating Only If Provided
Hot Water Yes Yes
Kitchen Appliances No Only If Provided
Garbage Containers/Removal Only Multi-Family Residences Only If Provided
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors Yes Smoke Only
Mold N/A Yes
Pest Control N/A Yes

If a property doesn’t provide the legally required amenities for habitable housing, a tenant can usually report the landlord to government authorities for unsafe living conditions.

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Renter’s Rights for Repairs in Washington

Landlords are required to make necessary repairs in a timely manner. In Washington, repairs must be made within 20 days after getting written notice from tenants.

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, Washington tenants can sue for costs, or a court order to force the landlord to make repairs. They can also cancel the rental agreement, or contract professionally for repairs and deduct from the rent.

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Tenant Responsibilities in Washington

Washington tenants must pay rent on time and avoid causing undue property damage. To that end, they are also legally required to do the following:

  • Keep the rental unit 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 eviction:

  • 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 a 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 are illegal in Washington. This includes lockouts, and retaliatory evictions connected to the filing of a health or safety complaint.

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Landlord Retaliation in Washington

It’s illegal for Washington landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken a protected action like reporting a landlord to government authorities for health and safety violations.

Security Deposits in Washington

Collections & Holdings: The following laws apply to the collection and holding of security deposits:

  • Maximum: None.
  • Inventory Requirement: Landlords are not required to document the condition of the rental unit at the start of the lease term in order to collect security deposits.
  • Holding Requirement: Security deposits must be held in a qualifying financial account.
  • Interest Requirement: None.
  • Receipt Requirement: Yes.

Local Laws. Cities and towns can enact their own rules. For example, some of these rules are different in Seattle.

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Returns & Deductions: The following laws apply to the return of security deposits:

  • Allowable Deductions: The lease agreement must list any deductions that landlords might make, such as cleaning or repair costs, except they cannot charge for normal wear and tear.
  • Time Limit for Return: 21 days. (On July 23, 2023, this deadline will be extended to 30 days).
  • Max. Penalty for Late Return: Tenants can sue for twice the deposit plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

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Lease Termination in Washington

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week N/A
Month-to-Month 20 Days
Quarter-to-Quarter 20 Days
Year-to-Year 20 Days

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.

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Cost of Breaking a Lease in Washington

If a Washington tenant breaks their lease early, they are still liable for the rent for the remaining lease period. Landlords are legally required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit, and if they find a new tenant, the original tenant is then no longer liable to pay all remaining rent.

Landlords cannot keep the full security deposit because a tenant broke their lease. The landlord can make deductions for damages or unpaid rent, but the rest must be returned to the tenant.

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Rent Increases in Washington

Washington does not have rent control and state law prohibits cities and towns from creating their own rent control laws.

Because Washington does not have rent control, landlords can raise the rent by any amount, as often as they choose, but they cannot increase the rent during the lease term unless the lease agreement allows for it. Additionally, landlords cannot increase the rent out of discrimination of state or federally-protected classes or in retaliation.

Landlords must give 60 days’ notice before increasing the rent. However, landlords can give 30 days’ notice when the housing is subsidized.

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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.
  • Age.
  • 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 regard to housing practices:

  • Falsely claiming a unit is unavailable.
  • 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

In addition to having laws that address general issues like repairs and security deposits, most states, including Washington, grant rights and responsibilities about things like lock changes and a landlord’s right to entry. See the topics below for more information.

Landlord Right to Entry in Washington

Washington landlords have the right to enter a rental property for inspections, maintenance, or property showings. In most cases, the landlord must provide 2 days of notice before entering an occupied unit. This includes entry for repairs or for showing the space to prospective tenants and buyers. A landlord may enter without permission in cases of emergency.

If proper notice is not given or a right to entry is abused to harass a tenant’s privacy, the tenant might be able to sue the landlord and/or cancel the lease.

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Rent Collection & Related Fees in Washington

The following laws apply to the collection of rent and related fees:

  • Grace Period: Landlords must give a 5-day grace period before charging a late fee.
  • Maximum Late Fee: No limit, except it must be reasonable.
  • Rent Payment Methods: Landlords must accept money orders and personal or cashier’s checks.
  • Rent Receipt: Required for cash payments or upon request.

Small Claims Court in Washington

Most disputes between landlords and tenants are handled in Small Claims Court, which is an informal process designed to be quicker and simpler than higher courts. For example, disputes regarding the return of security deposits are typically handled in Small Claims Court.

Landlords and tenants can file cases in Small Claims Court to settle minor disputes without hiring an attorney if they file as an individual and the amount claimed is less than $10,000. If a landlord or tenant is filing as a company (e.g. LLC), the claim limit is $5,000. Washington Small Claims Court is a division of District Court. The process takes approximately two to three months.

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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 Deposits: If a landlord collects a security deposit, they must disclose:
    • The terms and conditions of the deposit.
    • Where the deposit will be held.
    • The condition of the rental 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.

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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 performing an illegal “self help” lockout eviction.

How to Report a Washington Landlord for Unsafe Living Conditions

When a Washington landlord fails to keep a rental property in the condition required by state and local law, renters have the right to report such violations to the proper government organizations. Most areas have dedicated inspections departments which enforce code compliance. Renters can request an inspection from such local authorities as evidence that the landlord has provided substandard housing.

Local Laws in Washington

Many cities in Washington have their own landlord-tenant laws in addition to the state requirements. Check your local county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations.

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 in 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 has a Tenant Rights Ordinance. This requires landlords to give 90 days’ written notice when a tenant’s property is being modified or demolished. More info on this ordinance can be found here.