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Washington State Landlord-Tenant Laws Resource Guide

Washington Landlord-tenant lawsBelow is a summary of rental laws in Washington. This article is researched and cited according to the Official State Statute in Washington, however, it is very important that every landlord and property manager review their state and local laws and speak with an attorney in their state for further guidance and clarification.  

The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information.  Resource links to the Official State of Washington Statutes in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) on Landlord-Tenant Laws.

In Washington, there is not a governmental agency that has the power to intervene in a dispute between a landlord and tenant to force one or the other party to behave in any particular manner. A landlord or tenant who cannot resolve a dispute on their own would need to use the courts, either directly or through a lawyer, to enforce their legal rights.

Rental laws are amended and updated by state legislation. You are advised to speak with a local housing authority and licensed attorney that specializes in landlord-tenant laws in Washington for a detailed interpretation of the rental laws that affect you. This article is an educational reference and does not constitute legal advice.

Official State Resources for Landlord-Tenant Laws in Washington


Laws About Security Deposits

Max Security Deposit Amount: No state law. Check with your local city and county laws for maximum security deposit amounts.

Additional Move-In Fees: Landlords may charge a fee or deposit to hold or secure a unit for the prospective tenant. They cannot charge a fee to place a tenant on a waiting list. Once the tenant moves into the unit, the holding deposit must use the fee or deposit as a credit towards the first month’s rent or the security deposit. (RCW 59.18.253)

Security Deposit Refund Timeline: 21 days (RCW 59.18.280)

Legal Use of Security Deposit Funds: A landlord must provide the tenant with written terms in which a security deposit may be withheld at the end of a lease. A landlord cannot collect a deposit unless the rental agreement is in writing and a written checklist of pre-existing conditions and damages of the property is provided to the tenant. If a tenant does not receive this checklist at the beginning of tenancy, he is entitled to a full security deposit refund. (RCW 59.18.260)

Failure to Comply with Security Deposit Laws: If a landlord fails to refund a tenant within 21-days, the renter is entitled to the full security deposit refund. Additionally, at the discretion of the court, the landlord may have to award up to two-times the amount of deposit for the intentional refusal of the landlord to give the statement or refund due to the tenant. (RCW 59.18.280)

Security Deposit Trust Account and Interest: The landlord must place a tenant’s security deposit in a trust account and provide the tenant with a written receipt for the deposit and written notice of the name, address and location of the deposit trust account. A landlord is entitled to collect interest earned on a security deposit, unless otherwise stated in a lease agreement. (RCW 59.18.270)

Additional WA Security Deposit Laws:  Upon termination and vacation, a tenant must restore the premises to their initial condition except for reasonable wear and tear or conditions caused by failure of the landlord to comply with his or her obligations under this chapter. The tenant shall not be charged for normal cleaning if he or she has paid a nonrefundable cleaning fee. (RCW 59.18.130(10))


Laws About Rental Applications

Application Fees: A landlord can charge a prospective tenant an application fee to obtain a tenant screening report only if the prospective landlord provides the following information to a tenant:

  • What types of information will be accessed to conduct the tenant screening
  • What criteria may result in a denial of the application
  • If a consumer report is used, the name and address of the consumer reporting agency and the prospective tenant’s right to obtain a free copy of the consumer report in the event of a denial or other adverse action, and to dispute the accuracy of information appearing in the consumer report
  • Whether or not the landlord will accept a comprehensive reusable tenant screening report made available to the landlord by a consumer reporting agency.

A landlord is allowed to charge his or her actual costs for obtaining background information. The amount charged may not exceed the customary costs charged by screening service in the general area. The landlord’s costs can also include time spent collecting and reviewing background screening data. (RCW 59.18.257)


Laws About Rent

Increases: A landlord may increase the rent after 30 days written notice has been provided for a month-to-month tenancy or after a lease term is complete. (RCW 59.18.140)

Maximum charge: No official state statute, check your local laws.

Grace Period : No official state statute, check your local laws.

Late Fees : No official state statute, check your local laws.


Laws About the Lease

Lease Terms: Most lease agreements are month to month, but may be from period to period on which rent is payable.

Copy of Lease: Landlords must provide a copy of the lease to each tenant who signed the agreement. The tenant may request one free replacement copy during tenancy. (RCW 59.18.065).

Lease Violations: If a tenant violates a lease term or fails to meet state mandated tenant duties, the landlord may give the tenant written notice of noncompliance, and the tenant has 30 days to remedy the situation, unless the violation is grounds for immediate eviction. (59.18.180)

Lease Termination:

  • Month-to-Month: For month to month lease agreements, the lease shall be terminated with a written notice give 20 or more days before the last day of tenancy. This notice can be given by either party. (RCW 59.18.200)
  • Term Leases (year-to-year): A lease is considered over at the end of the lease term. Not notice is required by either party to end the lease agreement, unless otherwise stated in the rental agreement. (RCW 59.18.210)

Termination Due to Failure to Make Repairs: If a tenant provides a landlord with official written notice about a violation of required landlord duties and the landlord does not remedy the situation in the required timeline, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement. For this type of termination, the tenant is entitled to a prorated refund of any prepaid rent and shall receive a written statement of any security deposits deductions.

(RCW 59.18.090)

Lease Termination by a Service Member: Any tenant who is a member of the armed forces may terminate his lease agreement with less than 20 days notice if he receives reassignment or deployment orders that do not allow a twenty-day notice.  If the tenant is on a term lease agreement, he can terminate tenancy. (RCW 59.18.200)

Lease Termination in cases of domestic violence: Termination of Lease: A tenant is allowed to terminate a lease with proof of Domestic Violence status, however the request to terminate must happen within 90 days from the incident date. (RCW 59.18.575(1b))

Evictions: A landlord may immediately proceed to an unlawful detainer action (eviction) if the tenant is involved in drug-related activity on the premise or if the tenant is involved in gang-related activity. A landlord may evict a tenant if he fails to meet non-dangerous lease conditions and does remedy the situation within the designated timeline after receiving official notice. (59.18.180)

Changes to the Property:  Whenever a landlord plans to change any apartment or apartments to a condominium form of ownership, the landlord shall provide a written notice to a tenant at least one hundred twenty days before termination of the tenancy. (RCW 59.18.200)

Unapproved Tenants/Guests: If a tenant is living in the property without permission of the owner or manager, the unapproved tenant shall be deemed a tenant by sufferance, and shall be liable to pay reasonable rent for the actual time he or she occupies the premise.  He also must immediately vacate the property upon request by the owner. (RCW 59.04.050)


Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

Notice for Entry: A landlord must give a tenant a 2 day advanced notice about an intent to enter a rental, expect in the case of an emergency. The notice must include the specific time and date of planned entry, and give the tenant a contact number to dispute the entry. (RCW 59.18.150(6))

The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs, alterations, or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors. (RCW 59.18.150(1))

The landlord may enter the dwelling unit without consent of the tenant in case of emergency or abandonment.(RCW 59.18.150(5))

Implied Warranty of Habitability:

The landlord will at all times during the tenancy keep the premises fit for human habitation, and shall in particular:

  • (1) Maintain the premises to substantially comply with any applicable code, statute, ordinance, or regulation governing their maintenance or operation, which the legislative body enacting the applicable code, statute, ordinance or regulation could enforce as to the premises rented if such condition endangers or impairs the health or safety of the tenant;
  • (2) Maintain the structural components including, but not limited to, the roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, foundations, and all other structural components, in reasonably good repair so as to be usable;
  • (3) Keep any shared or common areas reasonably clean, sanitary, and safe from defects increasing the hazards of fire or accident;
  • (4) Provide a reasonable program for the control of infestation by insects, rodents, and other pests at the initiation of the tenancy and, except in the case of a single-family residence, control infestation during tenancy except where such infestation is caused by the tenant;
  • 9) Maintain the dwelling unit in reasonably weathertight condition;
    (RCW 59.18.060)

Required Amenities: Landlords must maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating, and other facilities and appliances supplied by him or her in reasonably good working order (RCW 59.18.060(8)).

Heat/Water Requirements: Landlords must provide facilities adequate to supply heat and water and hot water as reasonably required by the tenant (RCW 59.18.060(11)).

Certificate of Inspection: Local municipalities may require that landlords provide a certificate of inspection. (RCW 59.18.125)

Security and Locks: Landlords must provide adequate locks and gives keys to the tenants.  Landlords must also safeguard any master key or duplicate keys to the residence. (RCW 59.18.060(6))

Retaliatory Actions by the Landlord: A landlord cannot retaliate against a tenant if the tenant makes any complaints or reports to an authority regarding a landlords failure to meet his landlord duties. Retaliatory actions include but are not limited too: evictions, increasing the rent, reduction of services to the tenant, and increasing the obligations of the tenant. (RCW 59.18.240)


Laws About Property Maintenance and Repairs

Landlord Maintenance Responsibilities:Except where the condition is attributable to normal wear and tear, landlords must make repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in as good condition as it by law or rental agreement should have been, at the commencement of the tenancy(RCW 59.18.060(5)).

Require Maintenance Timeline: If a tenant submits an official written notice to the landlord for requested repair, a landlord must remedy the situation as soon as possible but no later than the following timelines (except where circumstances are beyond the landlord’s control):

  •  Not more than twenty-four hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or is imminently hazardous to life;
  • Not more than seventy-two hours, where the defective condition deprives the tenant of the use of a refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord; and
  • Not more than ten days in all other cases.
    (RCW 59.18.070)

Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities: Tenants are required to:

  • keep their permise clean and sanitary as possible, properly dispose of all garbage and waste;
  • properly use and operate all electrical, gas, heating, plumbing, and appliances supplied by the landlord;
  • Not intentionally damage or remove any structure or part of the property (including common areas and equipment);
  • Not engage in drug-related activity at the rental premise;
  • Maintain a smoke detection device;
  • Not engage in any activity that endangers the physical safety of other persons on the premise, including assaulting another person or unlawful use of a firearm or deadly weapon;
  • Not engage in gang-related activity
    (RCW 59.18.130)

Tenant Caused Damage: If a tenant, tenant family member, guest or invitee, cause property damage that makes the property uninhabitable, the landlord is not responsible for repairing the damage. (RCW 59.18.060)

Diminished Rental Value: If a landlord fails to remedy a defective property condition and the court or arbitrator determines the diminution in rental value, the landlord may receive a judgement for the rent paid in excess of the diminished rental value to make the funds available to the tenant. (RCW 59.18.110)   

Repair and Deduct: If a tenant provides official written notice about maintenance requests that fall under a landlord’s legal responsibilities AND the landlord fails to remedy the situation, the tenant can deduct the repair cost from his rent. However, the deduction cannot be more than the equivalent of two months’ rent in a 12-month period.

If the tenant is able to perform the repair himself, he cannot deduct a reasonable amount for the time/cost for repair from his rent, not exceed an amount equivalent to one month’s rent.(RCW 59.18.100)

Relocation Assistance: If a landlord fails to meet the required maintenance duties and knowingly rents the property but the property is declared condemned or unfit for occupancy, the landlord will be required to pay relocation assistance to the displaced tenants.

Relocation assistance shall be the greater amount of two thousand dollars per dwelling unit or three times the monthly rent. In addition to relocation assistance, the landlord shall be required to pay to the displaced tenants the entire amount of any deposit prepaid by the tenant and all prepaid rent.  It must be paid within 7 days of receiving notice from a government agency.

Landlords are not required to pay relocation assistance if the damage was caused by the tenant or a third party, is the result of a natural disaster, or if the property is acquired by eminent domain.

(RCW 59.18.085)

Right to Inspection of Dangerous Conditions: If the tenant is living in substandard or dangerous conditions, which after receiving proper written notice of the conditions and the landlords fails to remedy, the tenant is entitled to request an official inspection by the local government, for the purposes of deciding if the tenant can receive a refund of all rent paid while living in dangerous conditions. (RCW 59.18.115)


Legal Disclosure Requirements

Ownership: Landlords must give the tenant the name and address of the person who is the landlord. You can do this by providing the information in the rental agreement or posting it in a conspicuous place on the premise. Tenant will notified immediately if there is any change to the ownership status.(RCW 59.18.060(15))

Agents: If the rental owner lives out of state, they shall designate a person who lives in the county who is authorized to act as an agent of the owner for the purpose of service notices and process. If no person is designated, then the person whom the rental payments are addressed to shall be considered the agent. ((RCW 59.18.060(5)).

Mold: Landlords must give tenants information provided by the department of health about the health hazards associated with exposure to indoor mold and how tenants can control mold growth in their homes. The information can be given to each tenant or posted in a visible, public location on the property. (RCW 59.18.060 (13))

Lead Paint: Federal Law requires all landlords to include a “Lead Warning Statement” in their lease for buildings built before 1978 about lead-based paint and/or potential hazards.  Additionally, landlords are required to provide renters with an EPA-approved information pamphlet about lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.(Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, Title X)


Exemptions

The state of Washington has special laws for people who live in:

  • Subsidized housing programs
  • Mobile home parks where the landlord does not own the mobile home and
  • Employer-provided housing.

The rental housing laws outlined in this guide may not apply to you if you live in the above type of housing.


Resources

Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington State handbook

EPA Approved Lead Disclosure Information on Lead-Based Paint/Hazards – SAMPLE

Section 8 Housing Guide


Laws governing rental properties, landlords and tenants are primarily found in the official code of Washington, the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

Washington statutes are found in one of three published codes. The official code for the State of Washington is the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) published by the Statute Law Committee and the Code Reviser. There are two codes published by private vendors: West’s Revised Code of Washington Annotated (RCWA) and Annotated Revised Code of Washington (ARCW) published by LexisNexis.


This summary of landlord-tenant laws is provided to you by Rentec Direct, LLC and is thought to be true and accurate at the time of publication. It not intended to be used as legal advice for your particular problem. Please note that changes may occur and this publication may not reflect the most recent updates to the law.

Please consult an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant law in your state for any legal advice.

There Are 28 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Katheryn Fredericks says:

    What if he owner of he property where you live is having your stuff hauled off damaging your property and causing disruptive seen .moving all your outdoor property to the front yard like to give away for free?katzenjammer55kmf@ Gmail.com

    • This does not sound acceptable and might even be illegal. I would document everything that is happening with detailed notes and pictures, including any communication you have with the owner. You will probably need to speak with an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area or your local housing authority for guidance on the next step.

  2. Bonniekartes57@gmail says:

    We went through our inspection through Sec. 8 and we fixed the stuff we had to but the landlord refused.Section 8 is no longer going to pay him now,so now he wants us to move by 3/31.Can he do this?

  3. Teresa Bergman says:

    Does the responsibility of lawn maintenance have to be stated in the lease? If the renters refuse to mow the lawn can the landlord pay someone to come in and do the job?

    • Does the lease state that the consequences if the tenant fails to maintain the lawn. If they are refusing, you might be able to charge them for lawn services. Or move forward with a lease violation and subsequent eviction if they continue to be in breach of contract.

  4. emily says:

    What if my tenant never gave me back a rental contract that I signed. He moved out while I was gone, still agreed to pay what he owed and the 30 days, but now won’t/

    • I am confused why you didn’t retain a signed copy of the rental contract before letting the tenant move in. You should always have a signed copy of any paperwork and correspondence for your records.

  5. Our landlord wants to re roof the house we are living in. There has never been any leaks or damage but yes, it obviously needs to be re roofed. We are planning to move out in the next 6 weeks to a home we are buying. Do we have any recourse in asking him to wait or being compensated for the inconvenience. He has already stated the roofers start a 6:00 in the morning and work until dark which is 9:00 pm and it would take 4-5 days.

    • You can always try to ask, but it can be extremely difficult to schedule with contractors. You can check your local noise ordnance laws about time of day contractors are allowed to work on your home.

  6. Jennie says:

    7. You agree that if we, in our sole and absolute opinion, discover evidence to indicate any of the aforementioned smoking, drug use, open flames, or overnight guests other than Wendy, then you hereby accept thirty day notice to vacate the premises, and you shall comply, and leave the home clean. 6. You hereby grant us permission, without further conditions, to inspect the home and the lot upon which it sits, without any prior notice required, provided, we inspect no more than three times per month, and we can only inspect when someone is in the home, but provided further, you also hereby agree that if someone is in the home, they shall respond promptly to knocking and open the door to allow us to enter and inspect even if it is a guest and you are not at the home. If anyone is at the home and refuses, during the hours of 9 am to 9 pm, to respond to our knocking or refuse to allow us to enter and inspect, it is a breach of the Lease and 30 day Notice to vacate shall be issued, and you hereby agree to comply with its terms.

    These are from my landlord which he is adding to my lease are these even legal ?

    • The inspection part seems kind of unnecessary and might violate your right to quiet enjoyment. I would speak with an attorney. I would respond to the landlord that you don’t mind signing it, you just need to have your attorney review the amendments first. It might be more affordable than you think to talk with an attorney. It’s definitely something I would consider.

  7. Teresa Weydert says:

    As home owners, my husband and I are renting out our basement as an apartment. I went on line to find rental contracts from State of Washington. It has a spot for a notary. Do we have to get the document notarized? Also, do both have to sign the lease document? Or can it just be me signing it?

    • You might require the tenant get lease get notarized if you are not present when the tenant signs the lease. However, if your tenant signs the lease with you in person, it is not necessary to have the document notarized. Or if you send the tenant a copy of the lease online, and use a verified electronic signature system to sign the lease, that works too.

      You both need to sign the lease, as it is a contract between you and the tenant. It is typical for the tenant to sign the lease first, and for you to sign the lease after your tenant has. Keep the original copy of the lease and make a copy to give to your tenant. You should also consider saving an electronic copy of the lease to a cloud storage device, in case you misplace the original.

  8. Kara says:

    Can a landlord charge another months rent if a tenant does not vacate all of their belongings and return keys after the 30th day of the month?

    • It depends on your state laws, but yes, a landlord can technically do this. It is typical for a landlord to prorate the rent for the days your belongings remain on the premises, but in some cases, the landlord will chose to simply make the lease extend for another month and charge the tenant accordingly. You would have a good case to fight for only owing the prorated rent amount though. I would speak an attorney in your area who is familiar with landlord tenant laws.

  9. I paid a $600 deposit with $400 as non-refundable. I paid $500 for my dog which is also non-refundable. Total $1100 with only $200 refundable. My question is, does landlord need to list, in agreement, why so much is non-refundable?

  10. WESLEY says:

    Hi Kaycee, I have a relative we agreed to let stay with us for a couple months and now may be refusing to leave. Does this situation fall under the landlord/tenant laws? Do they have any legal right to stay with no contract and not paying any rent? And yes they are receiving mail at my residence.

  11. Denise Frederick says:

    Does a landlord have the right to come in and inspect before your last day of your lease, when you are in the middle of packing and moving?

    • What does your lease say? Did your landlord say he was going to come and inspect. If he gave notice per your state laws, or it says in your lease that he will conduct a pre-move out inspection within xxx days of move-out, he might have the right to do so, whether you are packing or not. The landlord cannot simply show up without notice though.

  12. Jeff says:

    Does non disclosure of any item that the landlord is suppose to disclose in the lease agreement, result a void lease agreement?
    For example

    At the time the lease is signed, landlord must provide tenant with information provided or approved by the department of health about the health hazards associated with exposure to indoor  mold. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 59.18.060)

    Or
    In the rental document or posted conspicuously on the premises, landlord must designate to the tenant the name and address of the person who is the landlord by a statement on the rental agreement or by a notice conspicuously posted on the premises. If the person designated does not reside in Washington, landlord must also designate a person who resides in the county to act as an agent for the purposes of service of notices and process. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §
    59.18.060)

    Or
    At the time the lease is signed, landlord must provide fire protection and safety information, including whether the building has a smoking policy, an emergency notification plan, or an evacuation plan. (Wash. Rev. Code 59.80.060)

    Or
    At the time the lease is signed, landlord must provide fire protection and safety information, including whether the building has a smoking policy, an emergency notification plan, or an evacuation plan. (Wash. Rev. Code 59.80.060

    Also what remedy do i have when i am terminated my lease early and am paying the penalties but the landlord is not making a reasonable attempt to re rent the apartment as per –
    RCW 59.18.310 which states that the landlord needs to be make a ‘reasonable effort to re-rent the unit’.?

    • I would contact your local housing authority, they will be able to give you the best advice and point you towards the right resources. You might have a legitimate case and an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area will be able to help you best. It might be more affordable than you think to work with an attorney.

  13. Jeff says:

    If landlord takes keys back of us and wont let us into the unit because he doesn’t want minorities staying there. What can we do?

  14. Es says:

    Hi Kaycee,

    I reside in Washington State and signed a one year lease. In looking closer at the lease (the landlord resides in California) its a lease agreement for the state of California. I wonder given that the rental is in Washington if the lease is valid?

    • That’s a very interesting question. It’s true that the lease would need to be drafted in accordance to Washingston state laws, since that is where the property and the tenant reside. When you say the lease is for California, what do you mean? Does it reference California state laws?

      In some cases, a landlord will use a lease template related to a certain state, which usually means it has lease terms that are required in that state. So I would wonder what the difference in lease agreements between California and Washington are. Are there lease terms in your “California lease” that don’t apply to Washington rentals and tenants? If the required and acceptable lease terms are the same between California and Washington, then I would think that lease you have would be valid. It would be invalid if it includes a California lease terms that is illegal in the state of Washington. The only person who would know for sure is an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area. I would start by looking over the lease and see if anything sounds like a term you can’t uphold. If so, point it out to your landlord and say you would be happy to sign a new lease that complies with Washington state laws in order to protect both parties. Good luck, and let us know what happens!

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