Washington Rental Laws

Written on February 21, 2014 by , updated on July 24, 2017

Flag of WashingtonThis article summarizes some key Washington Landlord-Tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information. All sources are cited appropriately.

With that said, landlord-tenant laws are always changing and you have a responsibility to perform your own research when applying the laws to your unique situation.

If you have a legal question or concern, I only recommend contacting a licensed attorney referral service that is operated by the state bar association.

Official Rules and Regulations

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: No Statute
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 21 days (RCW §§ 59.18.280)
  • Security Deposit Interest: Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord shall be entitled to receipt of interest paid on such trust account deposits. (RCW §§ 59.18.270)
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: Required (RCW §§ 59.18.270)
  • Non-refundable Fees: Allowed, but they must not be part of the security deposit, and must be clearly designated as a “non-refundable fee” in a written lease agreement. (RCW §§ 59.18.285)
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: Allowed (RCW §§ 59.18.285)
  • Require Written/Signed Move-In Checklist: No deposit may be collected by a landlord unless the rental agreement is in writing and a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness of or existing damages to the premises and furnishings, including, but not limited to, walls, floors, countertops, carpets, drapes, furniture, and appliances, is provided by the landlord to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy. The checklist or statement shall be signed and dated by the landlord and the tenant, and the tenant shall be provided with a copy of the signed checklist or statement. (RCW §§ 59.18.260)
  • Require Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (RCW §§ 59.18.280)
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
  • Receipt of Deposit: Yes, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a written receipt for the deposit and shall provide written notice of the name and address and location of the depository and any subsequent change thereof. (RCW §§ 59.18.270)
  • Failure to Comply: If the landlord collects a deposit without providing a written checklist at the commencement of the tenancy, the landlord is liable to the tenant for the amount of the deposit, and the prevailing party may recover court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. (RCW §§ 59.18.260)

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • When Rent Is Due: No Statute
  • Rent Increase Notice: 30-day written notice for month-to-month leases. (RCW §§ 59.18.140)
  • Rent Receipt: A landlord shall provide a receipt for any payment made by a tenant in the form of cash and upon the request of a tenant, a written receipt for any payments made in a form other than cash. (RCW §§ 59.18.063)
  • Rent Grace Period: No Statute
  • Late Fees: No Statute
  • Prepaid Rent: No Statute
  • Returned Check Fees: Allowed, but must not exceed forty dollars or the face amount of the check, whichever is less. I recommend using Cozy to prevent bounced checks. (RCW §§ 62A.3-515)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, but tenant must also notify government authorities and must deposit the withheld rent into an escrow account. (RCW §§ 59.18.115)
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes
    • If the repair requires a licensed professional, the tenant must provide the landlord with an estimate before the work is performed and the cost of the repair must not exceed two month’s rent. (RCW §§ 59.18.100)
    • If the repair does not require a licensed professional, the tenant may repair the defective condition in a workmanlike manner and the cost of the repair must not exceed one month’s rent. The total costs of repairs deducted in any twelve-month period under this subsection shall not exceed one month’s rent. (RCW §§ 59.18.100(3))
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (RCW §§ 59.18.280, 59.18.290)
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: Yes (RCW §§ 59.18.310)
  • Abandonment: Landlord can store and eventually sell the tenant’s personal property to compensate for damage. Landlord must follow specific instructions found in RCW §§ 59.18.310(b).

Notices and Entry:

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No notice is needed as the lease simply expires. (RCW §§ 59.04.030)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease (or other periodic term): 20 days or more from lease expiration. Less than 20 days notice is allowed for any tenant who is a member of the armed forces and receives deployment orders. (RCW §§ 59.18.200(1a-b))
  • Termination of Unapproved Tenancy (Squatters): Unapproved tenant is liable for rent for the time he/she occupied the dwelling and must turnover the premise immediately at the demand of the owner. (RCW §§ 59.04.050)
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No Statute
  • Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: 3 days (RCW §§ 59.12.030(3)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: 10 days (RCW §§ 59.12.030(4)), 3 days for illegal or nuisance activity. (RCW §§ 59.12.030(5))
  • Required Notice before Entry: Two days (RCW §§ 59.18.150(6))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes (RCW §§ 59.18.150(6))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes, only one day’s notice is required. (RCW §§ 59.18.150(6))
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (RCW §§ 59.18.150(5))
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No Statute
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statute
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (RCW §§ 59.18.290) (pdf)
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No. Landlord may be obligated to pay actual damages plus $100 per day of disrupted service plus court/attorney costs. (RCW §§ 59.18.300)

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Official Duties of Landlord: For a detailed summary, read RCW §§ 59.18.060.
  • Official Duties of Tenant: For a detailed summary, read RCW §§ 59.18.130.
  • Name and Addresses: The 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. (RCW §§ 59.18.060)
  • Copy of the Lease: For written rental agreements, the landlord shall provide an executed copy to each tenant who signs the rental agreement. The tenant may request one free replacement copy during the tenancy. (RCW §§ 59.18.065)
  • Lead Disclosure: Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on Lead-based paint hazards.
  • Adverse Action Notice: If rejecting an applicant during the screening process, the landlord must give notice using the template found in RCW §§ 59.18.257.
  • Domestic Violence Situations:
    • Proof of Status: Landlord is entitled to verify claim of Domestic Violence status. Tenant must complete the form found in RCW §§ 59.18.575(1b).
    • 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))
    • Landlord Cannot Terminate Lease: A landlord may not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s or applicant’s or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. (RCW §§ 59.18.580)
    • Landlord Cannot Fail to Renew: A landlord may not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s or applicant’s or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement under RCW 59.18.575. (RCW §§ 59.18.580)
    • Responsibility of Rent: Depending on the situation, the tenant may still be liable for the rent for the month in which he or she terminated the rental agreement. Read RCW §§ 59.18.575(2) and RCW §§ 59.18.575(3) for clarification.
    • Locks: Tenant is allowed to add locks to the dwelling at the tenant’s expense. (RCW §§ 59.18.575(4)59.18.585)
  • Retaliation: Landlord must not terminate or refuse to renew a lease to a tenant who has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority or has exercised his or her legal rights and remedies in the last 90 days. (RCW §§ 59.18.24059.18.250)
  • City of Seattle: Landlords with units in Seattle must include The Summary of Washington State and City of Seattle Landlord/Tenant Regulations as addendums to the lease.

Court Related:

Business Licenses:

  • Business License Required: No state-wide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements.  Check with your local governing authority.
  • Seattle Rental Registration: Rental properties in Seattle must be registered with the Department of Planning and Development. (source) (SMC §§ 22.214)

Overview Video

This video reviews some of the most common landlord-tenant laws in Washington. The Northwest Justice Project has produced multiple videos on the topic.

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393 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Christine

    My aunt lives outside of Seattle, Wa. In her recent lease they added a rule that cars that aren’t moved every three days will be towed. This happened once because she hadnt moved the car and just a few days ago. They applied a sticker that gave 24 hours l, she called the tow company and they said they would stop towing. Later that evening the car was towed because the rental office had signed off. She is unemployed and has no money to get the car back. Is it legal to make it mandatory to be your car without any proof? The parking spot is reserved for her.

    • 0Nick Frederick Ramundo

      If the parking spot is reserved for her/ that car then it looks like your apartment is liable for those funds

      Its sounding like its not reserved for her if they signed off on the tow though I’m a little confused in that sense

      • Christine

        Thank you for your response! I am trying to get clarification.
        The spot is numbered and has been hers for years. It is only new that the rule is you need to move your car every three days and this was in the lease. I am wondering if you know where in the landlord tenant act this information might be so I can show the office?

        • 0Nick Frederick Ramundo

          It’s going to come down to whether they changed the rules after she signed a lease which would grandfather her spot in ..

          To me and my properties..

          If the spot 8s numbered and she pays for it then noone can tell her to move that car and she will be reimbursed plus her troubles or there gonna be in trouble in court

          If she signed a lease after agreeing to those rules (3 day move) then she is at fault

          I hope this helps ..

          Your best bet is to move the car out of impound and then seek the compensation but make the office aware that you are pursuing them if you feel your in the right

  • Jaime L Broersma

    What lease documents do people use since this isn’t something that Cozy helps with? I’m interested in how other landlords handle this.
    Thank you.

  • Pat Shunn

    My Residence Lease has “several” areas that states ,example, Tenant has made an inspection of the premises and accept the condition therefore subject to provisions of R. C. W 58.18 et seq.,as amended.
    1. Does the lease have to be in lay terms

    2.Does this mean NO MOVE IN CHECKLIST needs to be provided on move?

    • Marianne S

      No, the lease doesn’t have to be in lay terms, as it is a contract… If you have questions about what something means, you should ask.

      In my experience, move in checklists are always required. When you move out, if the landlord does not do one, they cannot prove in court that damage done was not already existing when you moved in.

      The acceptance of conditions is basically, you can’t go later “no, sorry… I can’t live here. You didn’t tell me the apt had xyz instead of ABC”
      You are acknowledging you’ve inspected the property and are satisfied.

  • Josh M

    Hi There,

    I was curious the rules around watering your lawn. If my landlord specified in the lease that I was responsible for watering the lawn, and then installs a sprinker system when I have already moved in. Is it out of line for me to be wary of that? There’s a difference between “watering the lawn” and then having a routine sprinkler system running every day.

    Thank you,
    J

  • Holly Nelsen

    Can you sue a landlord for faulty electrical and inadequate ventalation after moving out?

  • Erica

    Hi :
    I love your informative blog. I have a question about pet fee. My rental property was managed by a company in WA over past three years. They charged my tenant $60 pet fee/ monthly. So far I never receive any pet fee. The company said they hold the money for damage repair. But they didn’t repair anything and report the pet fee as my rent income on 1099 form. I am new to rental management. Should I get the pet fee back? It is about 2500 for 3 years and 4 months. Is the company legal to do that?

  • James Krusmark

    The City of Tacoma has recently
    enacted significant changes to their landlord tenant code and a rental business license is required.
    It can all be found by an internet search for “city of tacoma landlord tenant program”.

  • Jean Mac

    We just purchased a house in the state of Washington; the owners have not been in the area for several years, and had been using a property management service to rent the home. The seller’s agent has been acting as the landlord, working as a realtor and property manager. In this hot market, the house came up for sale on a Saturday, the offer was accepted on Tuesday and it closed 6 weeks later. The tenants were supposed to be out several times now, and don’t seem to be moving. The landlord/selling agent just keeps making excuses and giving us false information as to when they will be out. At this point, what recourse do we have and where do we start? We need to be in there!

    • Joann

      you need a lawyer immediately-you are saying you have purchased a home ,have closed on the home And cannot move into the home because it is occupied ?
      You need to get some clarification and stop getting the runaround- something is very wrong with this situation- you need a real estate lawyer now

    • 0Nick Frederick Ramundo

      I buy small multifamily properties in tacoma and this has become an issue more than once for me.

      Couple of things here … who is your realtor because he should be fired
      Your rraltor should have had copies of leases and a writen document stating that either theproperty should be turned over empty and seller not paid until that has happened . Or a document stating when there lease is up and that they have been notified in writing their will be no renewal of lease.

      Now what you have is squatters. You need to start eviction immediatly. With a lawyer ( about 500 dollars ) this type of eviction can get tricky..

      Also u need to make it known to your realtor he / she is not off the hook. This will light a fire under the agencies butt.

      • Joann

        You are going to have a lot of expense involved with removing these tenants (or squatters whoever these people are )and again you should get a real estate attorney- also I would contact the board of realtors and file a grievance against this realtor/property manager but speak to an attorney first I still do not understand how this would not have been dealt with prior to closing -when we have sold an occupied property the lease goes with the property and the tenant can stay until the lease runs out —it seems as though you did not do much due diligence ? but again get to an attorney now

  • Kevin Hyatt

    I’m in Seattle, my lease states that we’re responsible for mowing and watering the lawn, and keeping the shrubbery in good condition. But these shrubs are huge, bigger than we realized, and now a blackberry bush of the side of the house – that we weren’t aware was our responsibility – is encroaching on the neighbor’s fence. One landscaper said it could cost $1000 to fix, and then a monthly cost to maintain. Does the lease speak in this case? Was it an unreasonable request? Are we liable for the cost of the landscaping? Thanks for your insight.

  • Tyler

    Hello, I’m in a odd situation, and need some advice. So I’ve been living in a home for a couple years and have paid 20k in rent so far. And have come to find out this place is inhabitable and they are not legally supposed to be charging anyone rent. I work full time as well as do yard work and other repairs. So I stopped paying and am being told if I dont pay the back rent I owe they’ll get an eviction. What can I do. Do I just up and go. Would they have to pay me the money back I’ve been paying all this time. I’m saving now to find somewhere to move but not sure what can be done here. Any advice would be greatly greatly appreciated

  • Nicholas Wallis

    My wife, sister and I were set to move out of a house we were renting on 8/29.

    The landlord sent us a checklist and stated they would be contacting us 2 – 3 weeks prior to our move-out date to set up a move-out inspection.

    We have not once been contacted, they’ve already placed a “For Rent” sign in the front and put the lockbox for our keys (Which we returned).

    My sister has left multiple messages about a move-out inspection and we have yet to be contacted.

    Is there a deadline for all of that outside of the “14 days to return security deposit with itemized list”

    Are we at a point where we can get a full refund?

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