Seattle Residential Lease Agreement

Last Updated: September 25, 2023 by Cameron Smith

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A residential lease agreement in Seattle is a binding document between a landlord and a tenant. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions surrounding the use of a rental property in exchange for periodic payments.

Residential Lease Agreement Requirements in Seattle

Seattle has several mandatory lease requirements that landlords must include in all lease agreements:

Renter’s Handbook

Seattle landlords must provide tenants with a copy of the Renter’s Handbook along with the lease agreement. This handbook includes tenant information as well as a voter registration packet.

Notice of Rent Increase

Any residential lease agreement in Seattle must contain an addendum stating that 180 days notice is required for rent increases.

Month-to-Month Tenancies

For month-to-month leases, Seattle landlords cannot require a minimum stay of more than one month. They also cannot impose penalties (including additional fees) if a tenant lawfully ends their lease but vacates the property early.

Security Deposits and Move-In Fees

Seattle landlords cannot collect security deposits or other non-refundable fees unless they are written into the rental agreement. This agreement must include:

  1. The terms and conditions in which the landlord can keep the security deposit
  2. A written checklist describing the condition of the unit and any damages
  3. The terms and conditions for the payment schedule of move-in fees

If a landlord keeps any portion of the security deposit, they must give tenants a full statement within 21 days of moving out. Tenants with rental agreements six months or longer can pay their security deposits and last month’s rent in six-month installments.

Pet Deposit

If a landlord charges a pet deposit, they must include an agreement stating the amount of the deposit and payment plan information. Landlords must allow the tenant to pay their pet deposit in three equal installments.

Parking Agreement

Landlords must provide a separate parking agreement along with the lease agreement. This should state any fees or additional parking regulations.

Domestic Violence

Seattle law prohibits landlords from charging domestic violence survivors for property damages caused by the abuser.

Adding Roommates

Seattle tenants may add additional occupants to their lease agreements as long as it does not exceed occupancy requirements. This includes both family member and non-family member roommates.

Reasonable Renewal

Landlords must offer tenants a renewal notice between 60-90 days unless they have a just cause for terminating the tenancy.

Landlord-Tenant Rights and Regulations in Seattle

When it comes to landlord-tenant rights, Seattle landlords should be aware of the following:

Limits on Fees

Seattle law has limitations on security deposits, pet deposits, and non-refundable move-in fees. Security deposits must not exceed one month’s rent, and other non-refundable fees cannot exceed 10% of one month’s rent.

Seattle landlords can only charge a maximum pet deposit of up to 25% of one month’s rent in addition to the security deposit. This does not apply to animals that provide support to disabled persons. Landlords cannot charge additional pet-related fees.

Any fees for late rent payments must not exceed $10 per month.

Fair Housing

Seattle follows State and Federal guidelines for fair housing. However, Seattle City Council has banned Preferred Employer Programs. These programs allow tenants who work for certain employers to receive special benefits—such as rent discounts or free parking.

Seattle’s source of income protection makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on having alternative sources of income.

Landlord Retaliation

Both State and local law offer protection against landlord retaliation. Examples of retaliation include unfair rent increases, refusing to make repairs, or abusing the right to entry.

Just-Cause Evictions

Both state and local laws make it illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without a just cause. This includes both at-fault and no-fault just cause evictions. Seattle’s just cause ordinance applies to month-to-month leases, verbal agreements, and expiring term leases.

No-Fault Evictions

A no-fault eviction is a term used when the notice to end the tenancy is not based on any fault of the tenant. This type of eviction is typically used in scenarios such as month-to-month tenancies. In some cases, low-income tenants may be eligible for relocation services—half of which is paid by the owner and the other half by the city.

Some examples of no-fault evictions include:

  • The landlord, their spouse, or family member decides to occupy the unit (must be in the lease agreement)
  • The landlord decides to withdraw the unit from the market
  • A federal order or local ordinance requires the tenant to vacate the property

At-Fault Evictions

An at-fault eviction is a term used when the notice to end the tenancy is based on the fault of the tenant. For at-fault evictions, landlords must provide written notice of the eviction, as well as an opportunity to cure the violation (if it is curable).

Some examples of at-fault evictions include:

  • Refusing to pay rent
  • Violating the lease agreement
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Refusing to allow the landlord to enter the property

Seattle law has restrictions regarding evictions during winter months. In certain scenarios, this law provides a defense to evictions between December 1st and March 1st.

Private Right of Action

If the owner terminates a tenancy for any of the reasons below, and if the owner fails to follow through with the reason for the eviction, the tenant can sue the owner for up to $3,000, costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees:

  • The sale of a single-family residence is planned
  • The owner or a family member is going to move in
  • Substantial rehabilitation is planned

Optional Lease Agreement Disclosures and Addendums in Seattle

While not mandatory, landlords can add specific disclosures and addendums to their leases. This helps outline the responsibilities of the tenant and can prevent future liability issues.

Pet Disclosure

With Seattle being one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S., landlords may want to address the building’s pet policies. This disclosure should include whether or not pets are allowed on the property, the tenant’s responsibility to cover any pet-related damages, and any additional pet fees or restrictions.

Medical Marijuana Use Disclosure

Medical marijuana use is legal in Seattle—which is why it’s important to disclose if it will be permitted on the property. Washington law allows landlords to restrict marijuana usage to non-smoking methods only. They should also clarify if there are any designated smoking areas on the premises.

Pest Control Disclosure

Due to Seattle’s thriving ant population, a pest control disclosure is recommended. This should highlight tenants’ responsibilities related to pest prevention—including reporting any signs of pests to management as soon as possible.

Summary of Required Lease Disclosures for the State of Washington

  • Landlord’s Name and Address – This creates a line of communication between a landlord and a tenant. Landlords or any authorized individual should provide contact information within or alongside the lease.
  • Fire Safety and Protection Notice – Landlords must provide information relating to smoke detectors, fire sprinklers, alarms, fire safety system, and evacuation plans. This can be a written notice or checklist and must include a diagram of emergency evacuation routes. It should be signed by the landlord and tenant.
  • Mold Disclosure – Landlords must provide information about the dangers of indoor mold in the form of a lease disclosure or notice. It must include information about controlling growth and limiting the health risks it poses with proper precautions.
  • Move-In Checklist – In order for a landlord to collect a security deposit, they must provide tenants with a move-in checklist. It must be signed and dated by each party, and each party should receive a copy for assessing damages upon move-out.
  • Security Deposit Holdings – If a landlord collects a security deposit, they must provide holding information to the tenant as a form of receipt. The receipt must include the name and location of the depository.
  • Non-Refundable Fee – If a landlord charges a one-time, non-refundable fee, it must be stated as a “non-refundable” fee in the agreement. This can include fees for pets, access to amenities, or other expenses. If the fee is not disclosed in the agreement, they are subject to a refund upon termination of the lease.
  • Lead-Based Paint – It is a federal law in the United States that any home built before 1978 must disclose the risks posed by lead-based paint.