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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381 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • christi

    My daughter moved to another city to start work for a job she was offered. She moved to the home with her friend who told her the home was being paid for by another party till they started working and we’re on their feet and that the landlord was a friend of their family. My daughter meet the landlord and signed what she did not realize was a 1 year lease. She lived in the home for 3 days and found out that her friend had lied and created a fake job offer to get her to move. My daughter left that day and moved back home since she felt unsafe with this person. She had to leave her belongings and was unable to get copy of papers. I on numerous occasions I tried to get the landlords info so I could make sure he knew my daughter was no longer at the property and that we were told the friend had her sister move in and was now on the lease. After not getting the info I located the landlords address through tax records and sent a certified letter stating all of the above information. The landlord contacted me and told me he had been issued a bad check for 2800 from my daughter friend. He said half of that was 1400 but that he would only charge get 550 for breaking a year lease and since she only was there 3 days. I asked him if he had a new lease with the friend and sister which he said he did. He had 2 leases one with friend and daughter and 1 with friend and sister and once I paid him 550 he would send me something releasing my daughter. My understanding is that my daughter is no longer liable once a new tenant is in the home. I believe he doesn’t think these new renters will pay him and is holding my daughter on the hook for that. I do not want to pay him anything. Some people say pay the 550 and be down with it. What us your advice. I have attempted to find lawyer but had not luck.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Christi,

      You are correct, your daughter is only responsible for rent (even the full rent amount on the lease) until a new lease with a new tenant is active. As soon as the new tenant’s lease starts, then your daughter is off the hook – even if those new tenants have issues paying. If they are bad tenants, then the landlord shouldn’t have signed with them – but he did – so he is now taking on the risk.

      Another thing – a landlord is not allowed to have two active leases for the same property. When a lease is signed, the landlord is granting “exclusive” use to the tenant – which is violated if another lease is singed concurrently.

      Here is the statute to support it. Read Section 2b:
      http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.310

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer – so please don’t take this as legal advice. If you’re looking for a lawyer, I suggest trying AVVO: http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer

      • christi

        He told me he has two leases and that the only way he will release my daughter from hers is if we pay him 550.00. My problem is that I believe he knows the new tenants are going to flake on him and at that time he will use the lease my daughter signed to go after her for damages. Ignoring the new lease because he feels he can get more from us than them. How do I prove he has a new lease? Also at the time my daughter moved in she how no knowledge of deposits and the other roommate wrote a check for 2800 that bounced. Is my daughter liable for that even though she didn’t write the check? We have no copy of the lease she signed because the home was an unsafe environment and my daughter had to leave quickly without some of her things.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Christi,

          If your daughter signed a lease with other roommates, she can be held liable for the full amount of rent. That’s what “joint and several liability” is, and most leases are written that way.

          If $550 is the prorated rent amount (based on calendar days from the entire rent amount) that is due, but not already paid, until when he found a new renter – then that’s an appropriate amount to ask of you – albeit, it really should be split among your daughter and the other tenants of that time.

          You may be right about the landlord trying to take advantage of the situation, but you can’t fault him for something that hasn’t happened yet. If I were you, I would ask to see how that number is calculated (how he came to $550), and if that is correct, ask why he’s not pursuing the other tenants for the amount. If that is already only her portion, then there’s not much you can say.

          Just keep in mind, the landlord has a responsibility to mitigate damages, but he can also hold your daughter responsible for the full rent amount for actual days (just as he can hold each tenant responsible for the full amount)

          Please know that I’m not a lawyer, and please don’t consider this as legal advice. But I hope it helps your situation. Good luck!

  • Nic

    I posted a while ago about a tenant we were concerned wouldn’t leave on his move out date. Since then, he has stated in writing that he will leave on January 12th. If he decides not to move out on that date, can the eviction process be started, or does the original lease supersede his voluntary vacation? An associated RCW on this matter would be great. Thanks for your help.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nic

      It’s great to hear from you again, but I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances.

      I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. The tenant doesn’t get to choose his move-out day (or at least he shouldn’t get to).

      The first step is to terminate the lease. Let’s assume the lease end date is on Dec 31. On January 1st, he no longer has a right to be there, and no longer has an active lease. If I were you, I would tell him that he either has to pay for a full month (i.e. all of January), or he needs to leave on Dec 31.

      If he does neither, I would file an “unlawful detainer” suit with your local courthouse on Jan 2nd. Once you do, you should refuse to accept any additional rent, otherwise it might reset the eviction proceedings.

      He still may leave on Jan 12th anyway, but you’ll need to continue through the process to win a judgement against him for the January’s rent.

      Be open and honest with the tenant. If you are on speaking terms, politely tell him how this will play out – which will likely provide him motivation to behave.

      Obviously, you can agree to whatever you want – but if you let the tenant choose his own move-out day, he will continue to push back that date as long as he needs. He will also assume he’s only responsible for the days that he is there, which is not true. At a minimum, he would be responsible for the entire month of january. If you let him walk over you, he will.

      I hope that helps. Again, please remember that I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Good luck and let me know how it goes. Also, I suggest you start looking for a new tenant to move-in on Feb 1st. Get that lined up, so you don’t loose much rent.

      • Nic

        Thank you for your reply. To be clear, when he gave the notice to vacate, we agreed that he would have no further financial obligation. I have no problem with that, I just want him out. My question is whether I have the right to start the eviction process on the 12th based on his notice to vacate. If not, then my only choice seems to be to let him stay until the end of the lease provided he keeps paying rent. I understand you are not a lawyer, I just want to know what my options are. Thank you again for your help.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Nic,

          You can only start the eviction process after YOU terminate the lease. It sounds like you are allowing him to live there until the 12th – which is fine. On the 13th, is lease would be over, and you can then file the paperwork. Keep in mind, all this needs to be documented. If your existing lease doesn’t say anything about the 12th, the tenant could argue that you’re just making it up, and his notice wasn’t valid anyway because he shouldn’t be able to get out of a contract that easily.

          If I were you, I would send him official written notice that “per his notice, the lease will terminate on the 12th, and if he decides to stay after that, he will be responsible for all of January’s rent”. Give him incentive to leave. Make sure he understands that your agreement to let him walk-away is conditional upon him leaving on the 12th.

          Then if he doesn’t, contact the courts and ask about what paperwork they need to file the unlawful detainer form.

          …just my two cents.

  • Kara

    I have a tenant moving out this month. The lease was signed by a married couple who during the lease divorced and only the wife is living in the unit. They are both separately asking me about the return of the deposit and did not include this asset as part of the divorce. How do I return the deposit?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kara,

      If I were you, I would do my best to stay out of it. The easy way to do so is to write a single check out with both of their names on it. Because two names are on the check, they both should be forced to sign it before a bank will accept the deposit. However, now-a-days, banks often miss little things like that. None-the-less, I would force them both to send me an email that authorizes distribution to a single source. They are adults, force them act like it if they want their money back. I don’t suggest that you split the money. They are joint and severally liable, so you should give back a single check. If you make the decision for them, you could find yourself pulled into a ridiculous lawsuit.

      Please keep in mind, that’s just what I would do. I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Melvin Allen

    On Jan. 3 I wrote the tenant a letter stating he needed to pay over three thousand in back rent or vacate the premises within three days. Tenant did neither, I sent a certified letter Jan. 5 with signature of receipt required. It is Jan. 12, can I issue them a court ordered eviction notice , or do I have to wait the two weeks for the signature return card.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Melvin

      I’m sorry your tenant is giving you issues.

      You’ll want to double check this with your local courthouse or a local attorney, because they may have different rules. Typically, the 3 day notice you gave means that if they don’t pay up or move–out, then the lease will be terminated. Once the lease has been terminated with proper notice, then you can file an eviction suit. It depends on your local court on whether they need to see that proof when the paperwork is filed, or if you can do so without the returned receipt.

  • Ashley

    My landlord has left notices on my door. However the problem is that they are always left a day later than they are dates for. So if the notice says 10 days they are really only giving me 9 days. I know they are left a day late because I am home during the day as I work nights. So it is not on my door when I arrive home in the morning but it is when I leave for work the same day. Is this against the law to falsify documents? Yes they type it that day but they do t leave it that day which make it false.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ashley,

      Of course it’s illegal to falsify information. But do you really think they are intentionally trying to do that, or is it that the manager prints up the documents on one day, and the delivery doesn’t happen until the next. I suppose it doesn’t matter.

      But even if you make it to court, it will likely only delay everything by one day. I would expect the court to simply give the PM a stern slap on the wrist. It probably won’t excuse whatever violation they are accusing you of.

      If I were you, I would have a conversation with the manager and let them know that you are aware of the incorrect date – and that you must be given your full 10 days to correct the violation or leave.

      If you fix the violation in 3 days, then it doesn’t really matter that they didn’t give you 10 full days, right?

      Good luck. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Krista

    I have a tenant who I’ve been trying to work with, but she’s now 3 months behind on rent and owes quite a bit in late fees. Her year lease is up at the end of February and we do not plan to renew it. If I give her notice that she’s to be out by the end of February and still owes for all back rent and fees, do I still have to go through the full eviction process? Even if she no longer has a lease past that point? I live in a different state now, so this is a very daunting task…

    Help is appreciated!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Krista,

      The formal eviction process with the courts is primarily used to force a tenant out of a property that they refuse to vacate.

      If your tenant doesn’t pay rent, the best practice is to terminate the lease as soon as possible – which is done by giving them written 3 day notice to Pay or Quit (RCW §§ 59.12.030(3). Basically, this notice is saying they have 3 days to pay the debt in full, or you will be terminating the lease and they must vacate immediately.

      If they do neither, then you go to court and file an “unlawful detainer” action (aka eviction). When you win the case, the court will give you a judgement to have the sheriff remove the tenant, and hopefully for the debt too. If the debt is not considered, then you have to go to small claims court later, to win a judgment for the debt.

      If I were in your shoes, I would have terminated the lease after 3 days in the 1st month that she was late. If you’re willing to work for it, I think you shouldn’t wait until the end of February to deal with this. I think you should deal with it immediately. Why in the world would she leave in february when her lease is up? – she has a nice place, that is rent-free, and a landlord who hasn’t taken her to court yet.

      Even though you live in a different state, it’s not hard, just more expensive. You’ll need to hire a lawyer to represent you, unless you are willing to travel. But don’t worry, you can make the tenant pay for your legal fees (if you think you’ll be able to collect the debt). When you send the notice, you should be very honest about the next steps, and how you will be charging all legal fees to her if she doesn’t pay up or leave within 3 days. You can still sue her later, but the main objective is to get her out, and fine a paying tenant to replace her ASAP.

      Good luck. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take this as legal advice. I’m an experienced landlord, just telling you what I would do in your shoes.

      Here’s a helpful guide: http://www.landlordology.com/tenant-eviction/

  • Jacob

    I rent a room from a woman and come to find out she is a drunk. She has to much to drink curses at me pounds on my door tells me to get the f***out of her house . She plays her stereo at high volume till 3:30 am and refuses to turn it to a reasonable level. She has burst into my room and told me its her house and she will come into my room anytime she wants. She has locked me out and I had to call the police to make her let me in. It has been a complete nightmare and on top of it all she post threats on Facebook to me.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jacob,

      Do you have a month-to-month lease? If so, you can terminate your lease with 20 days notice from the day rent is due. (RCW §§ 59.18.200(1a-b))

      Otherwise, you do have the right to quiet enjoyment. This means that you in return for paying rent, she needs to leave you alone and let you enjoy the place that you are renting. As a roommate, you’ll obviously run into her quite a bit, but she can’t just enter your roommate whenever. She needs to give proper two day’s notice (RCW §§ 59.18.150(6)).

      I suggest contacting a free legal aid provider, who can help you draft a legal letter to fight back or terminate you lease. There are few links in the article above. Please know that I’m not a lawyer so don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Katie

    I have a question, and have looked through many sites but not found an answer. To be blunt, we were late paying our rent this month, and know late fees apply. We left a check at the landlord’s office for the amount of the rent, anticipating paying the late fee shortly. We received a letter with receipt back, with the landlord having taken the late fee out of the rent payment, now making us $100 short on the rent, so they are assessing more late fees! We had designated the payment on the check for “rent”. Is this legal? Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Katie,

      I’m sorry to tell you that, as a landlord, I would have handled the payment the same way. In my lease, and many standard leases around the county, all payments from the tenant go to paying any fees first, then past-due rent, and then whatever is left over goes to current rent. However, you should review your lease in detail to see if it specifically addresses the order in which things get paid.

      By only paying a percentage of your total bill (rent + late fee), the late fee was paid in full first, then the remaining balance went towards rent. However, since it wasn’t enough to cover rent in full, you still owe some rent money from last month.

      The only good news that I have for you is that many times, the courts will not allow a landlord to assign a late fee to the same money more than once. But you’d have to talk to a local attorney to see if that is applicable in your city/county.

      • Katie

        Thank you Lucas. Our rental agreement actually does not say anything about taking late fees first, only that late fees will be assessed; however, as this payment will be resolved today, it is a moot point. The letter we received previously only asked us to pay the rent by the specified date, which it was. The check was written as “January rent” which I guess in my mind meant rent only. But thank you for your perspective on this! It just seems that this was the landlord’s way of getting even more late fees out of us, as well as setting us up for an eviction notice. We have been good tenants for more than 15 years, so it did not seem fair.

  • Christina

    Hello! WA tenant opts to deposit rent into our bank account. Lease states “rent is due in advance on or before the 20th. Rent due date is the the date the Landlord must receive the Tenant’s payment.” “Rent & charges must be deposited on or before the day it becomes due in accordance with the terms & conditions within this lease.” “If electronic payment is not paid by the financial institution on or before the date due as specified in this Lease, it shall be treated as a Late Payment under the terms and conditions contained in this Lease.” “If the rent or any other charges are not received by the Landlord on or before 5 days after the rent due date, Tenant must pay a late fee of $100.00 in addition to the rent.” Tenant usually deposits rent on the 25th. This month was 4:50PM Sat the 24th (closed Sun) & money didn’t actually POST to our account until the 27thAM. What’s our recourse? They insist they aren’t late as long as the deposit is made before the 5-day deadline. I disagree. Thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Christina,

      I’m not a lawyer, but I agree with you. Your lease seems to say that the money must be credited to your account by the 25th, otherwise it is late. However, does that mean that it is “processing” or “cleared” in your account? Your tenant could make an argument that it was “processing” in your account – that could be construed as a “payment” per your lease.

      Sadly, there is no reason why the tenant had to wait until the last possible day. If I were in your shoes, I would tell the tenant that the money didn’t show up in my account (which is required by the lease), until after the 25th. If he wants to be on-time next month, he should deposit before the posting deadline set by the bank – which is usually around 2pm on a business day (excluding weekends and holidays). However, this will likely end any good rapport you have with the tenant, so consider that before making a decision.

      I can’t give you legal advice, but if I were you, I would feel comfortable forcing him to the pay the late fee – even if I had to withhold it from his deposit at the end of the lease.

      Next time, be more specific in the lease. If you insist on having the tenant deposit funds, find out when the deadline (the time) is for your bank and put it in the lease – and even mention that it has to be on a business day.

      Also, I want to encourage you to get rid of your grace period altogether. It only gives a tenant permission to be late, and will create situations like this. Washington state doesn’t require you have a grace period – or at least there is no state statute on the matter.

      Further, I don’t recommend ever giving a tenant your bank account information. If you have an argument, he might be tempted to do something illegal with it. There are so many better ways of collecting rent – including online rent collection through Cozy (https://cozy.co) – however, you’d have to change your due date to the 1st, not the 20th. Maybe something to consider for future leases.

      • Christina

        Thanks so much for your quick reply! Good rapport is already gone, I’ve had to send too many e-mail reminders for payment. This is their usual practice, if they aren’t actually late 5+ days . I appreciate the advice for “next time” & I will definitely heed it. Military husband (away a lot) is Mr. Nice Guy & he set terms of the lease & payment arrangements, etc. I would have never done it this way. He let them choose their rent due date then changed it to the 20th to “help” w/their chronic late payments & you guessed it: after he did them that huge favor they started paying late again! So, now I am the lucky enforcer of the lease. I intend to send out late payment notices & assess fees, something Mr. Nice Guy was reluctant to do. One last question for you: does WA allow a landlord to end a lease (revert to a month-to-month tenancy?) after a certain number of late rent payments? I recall seeing that somewhere, but can’t find the info now. I’d like to get out of this lease, if possible.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Christina

          You should view a fixed-term lease and a month-to-month lease as separate entities. If you want, you can allow a tenant to go month-to-month at the end of their lease, but you typically can’t modify a fixed-term lease in the middle of it.

          Further, if the tenant has trouble paying during a fixed-term lease, they are going to behave the same in a month-to-month.

          I’ve never seen a statute that says you can “change” a fixed term lease to a M2M if they are late. Rather, the “go-to” solution is that if a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord can terminate the lease with proper notice. Going month-to-month is irrelevant if they have payment issues. Demand payment or terminate the lease.

          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))

          The links to those clauses are in the article above.

          • Christina

            Thank you once again – I really appreciate it. This is now my plan of action. I also intend to close this particular account (1 of 3 we have) so that tenant no longer has our private banking info. After your precious remark, I realized how risky that can be. That should eliminate the “pending versus posted” argument pretty quickly, too. Again, thank you!

  • Latina Brooks

    I gave my landlord notice because he said he was sale the place. I paid my last month in full. I was told by my old landlord that there was a 400.00 dollar nonrefundable fee that is totally refundable if I was in good standing with the landlord. I made sure I clean too picture too. The. Place sold and now the new landlord won’t return the money. My old said got to court and he will go with to stand by he’s statement . I would like to know what should be doing now.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Latina,

      What does your lease say? All parties will have to follow the lease agreement, including it’s clauses on refundable/nonrefundable deposits. If you don’t have a written agreement, how can you prove any of this?

      If you are considering going to small claims court, you should consult with a lawyer, or a free legal aid service provider in your town/city.

  • Sam

    So I have a ex girlfriend staying with me and she is not paying rent but she is staying in my house but never did a lease with her. How can I kick her out of my house?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sam,

      Has she been allowed to make your place, her home? If so, then she probably wouldn’t be considered a guest anymore. Laws vary on this greatly, and the only way to know for sure is to talk to a locally licensed attorney.

      By far, the best way to “kick her out” is to get her to leave voluntarily. Sometimes, offering to give her some money to leave peacefully will do the trick.

  • Craig

    Hello, I currently live in a complex and signed a 12 mo lease. I was told at the time of signing the lease that once the property manager signed the lease I would be sent a copy. At date I have lived in the property for 8-9 months. In that time I have requested a copy of the lease no less than 8 times. Some where in person and some where via email to the property manager. Of which I am told they will get one for me or one will be sent. Still no copy of a lease. I am currently interviewing with a company out of state and may need to leave a little earlier to the 12 month expiration date. Along with that my fiancé which is on the lease with me and has asthma issues. We have noticed a great deal of mold and mildew in the common areas of our building. (i.e. stairwells) She has had a substantial increase in her breathing issues. We have notified the management of the issue and were told things would be addressed. It has now been 60 days and nothing has been adressed. What are we liable.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It sounds like you have two separate issues – 1) not getting a copy of the lease, and 2) the mold.

      RCW 59.18.065 says that you must be given a copy of the lease, but there is no mention of a penalty if they don’t. That would likely be up to a Judge to decide.
      http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.065

      The mold may (or may not) affect habitability. You would need to have a mold test done (since it seems like the management company won’t do it on their own). You could call your local county housing authority or code enforcement office. They might send an inspector out to take a look.

  • james payne

    My landlord is charging me 1400 for a townhouse when the rent is only supposed to be 900 and he is telling me what to do and say what should i do please let me know.

  • Lou

    My son recently moved out of an apartment he rented from Feb 2014 – Jan 2015. He received a bill from that apartment complex with a list of charges including Paint ($455), Cleaning ($150) and carpet replacement ($496)
    Walkthrough at move-in only noted a “stain in bedroom closet” in regards to carpets. Nothing mentioned about overall cleanliness or paint condition.
    The Landlord alone prepared the walkthrough checklist at move-out. My son, unfortunately, did not take any pictures at move-out.
    Landlord had the following comments on his move-out checklist:
    “Needs full paint” (no details).
    “Carpets need replaced” (no details).
    “Needs Cleaning” (no details).
    With no documentation other than these comments, does my son have any ability to refute or reduce the charges other than to argue “normal wear and tear”?
    On a final note, the bill gives him 15 days to “Pay the full amount or be referred to a collection agency”. Is 15 days notice legal?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lou

      Your son can refute the charges for any reason if he thinks they are wrongful. However it won’t stop a landlord from reporting it to a collections agency.

      The way this “should” happen is that landlord must win a judgement in small claims court before reporting anything to collections. However, there are plenty of agencies that will take on the debt without a judgement and hurt your sons credit.

      Likewise, if your son has lost some deposit money wrongfully, or wants to set the record straight, then he could file a small claims case against the landlord. The judge will have a field day if the landlord withheld money for normal wear and tear and then also filing the debt with collections.

      If you want to avoid collections, you might want to consider paying the landlord and the. Turning around and suing him.

      Please knew that I’m NOT and lawyer and this is not legal advice. It would be wise to consult a licensed attorney in your area.

  • Joe

    Hi. I moved into a basement apartment 12/14, under a 1 year lease. The landlords live above. From day one, they have stomped around their home, which is my ceiling. This keeps me awake at night, it wakes me during the night when they get up to use the restroom, and they wake me at 6:00 am every sat & sun morning when I am trying to get caught up on lost sleep from the previous week. This has also caused nearly every light bulb in the apartment to be replaced due to broken filaments.

    I have not filed a formal complaint, but have mentioned it to them in passing, hoping that they would get the hint. It has done no good. I am so stressed due to a lack of sleep that I want to move out. But before I do, I want to file a formal written complaint with them and give them the opportunity to remedy the problem. What are my options? Due they have an obligation to provide a reasonably quite living environment to me?

    Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Joe

  • Cat Sullivan

    My family and I are all disabled, 3 of us, two of us are seniors, one is a young adult. We have Section 8 housing in North King County and we have lived here for 9 years, rent and utilities paid on time, etc. We discovered that our landlord is selling our building. Our unit has had the normal wear and tear from 9 years of living in a 40 year old building. If we are forced to move, we are wondering what our rights would be for our deposit return, etc? I have searched as best as I can but all they talk about is when a property is in “foreclosure”, which I do not think is the case here. If we are forced to move or if the rent is raised beyond our means with new owners, what are our rights? We are all on fixed incomes, moving costs are very, very expensive so we will need to recover everything we can in order to afford the move. We need to see the laws, Section 8 and city ordinances and live in Kenmore, WA. Where can they be found online or by phone? Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cat,

      You are correct, it would be best to talk with your section 8 housing coordinator. If you are part of the section 8 program, you should have a POC that you can call.

      Apart of any special Section 8 rules, your lease is the dictating factor on whether or not you could be forced to leave. Generally speaking, a fixed-term lease is not automatically terminated when a property is sold. The new owner becomes the new landlord, and the tenant must be allowed to finish out the lease term. If the tenancy is month-to-month, then the agreement can be terminated fairly easily with proper notice.

      Here’s a podcast episode that I did on the topic: http://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/006-lease-termination-at-sale-of-property/

      I’m not sure if this helps, but I found this site: http://www.kcha.org/housing/vouchers/.

  • Sabrina

    Hello. I am inquiring about the rental that my parents live in. They moved into this rental in April 1989. Since then the owner has had 3 different property management companies handle this property. Well, back in 1989 the first property management only had my dad pay $100 deposit to move in (I know those were the days, right?!?!) With each new property management the rent has increased but nothing has been said about the original deposit until this 3rd property management company has taken over. They are now asking my parents to pay them a new deposit of $1100. (One months rent amount) Is this legal? They told my parents that they have to pay or move out! They have lived there for so long and are retired on a very low fixed income. This isn’t something they can afford…what can they do???

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sabrina,

      Generally speaking, the deposit usually equals one month’s rent – otherwise, it doesn’t provide much security, right?!

      The bigger question is “what does the lease say?”. If your parents don’t have a written lease, then their tenancy will likely be considered a month-to-month agreement. As with any M2M term, the landlord can increase the rent with 30 days notice. (RCW §§ 59.18.140).
      http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.140

      If your parents do have a fixed-term lease, then the landlord can only increase the rent at renewal time. If your parents don’t agree to the terms, they don’t have to renew, but they must leave at the end of the term.

      Please know that I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord, trying to help :)

      • Sabrina

        Thanks for the reply, Lucas. I think my parents are more worried about having to come up with money for the new deposit the new property management is requiring them to pay. I think it seems odd to have to pay a new deposit since they already paid a deposit when they initially moved into the home back in 1989. It has never been a lease, only month to month. They aren’t disputing the rent increase, they understand that. But they were warned, that if they were not able to come up with the money for the new deposit , they would have to move out by the end of the month……..just doesn’t seem fair or right! Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions. I can’t seem to figure out what i can do, if anything, for them! Thanks again!

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Sabrina,

          I completely understand your parents emotions, but the fact is that this is the risk of a month-to-month lease. The landlord can change the terms of the agreement, and if the tenant doesn’t want (or can’t) to agree to them, then they can’t stay there without lease.

          The truth is that a $100 deposit is not much, and won’t cover the majority of possible damages to the unit. I actually think asking for a full one-month deposit is completely fair (minus the original $100). Otherwise, the landlord doesn’t have any real security against damages or abandonment.

          It sounds like they do want to stay, so the only real problem is that they don’t have the money. In cases like this, sometimes the landlord will allow the tenant to pay the full deposit over 3 months (one third every month). Other times, the tenants can borrow the money from a family member or a bank.

          Again, I personally don’t think the landlord is being unreasonable in asking for the full deposit, but if your parents are good tenants, I would hope the landlord would allow them some leniency to pay over a few months.

          Good luck!

  • Billy Welsford

    Hello! I am trying to find out if my landlord is required to give notice stating that they are not going to renew our lease. Our lease is supposed to be over 3/31/2015, however, we want to stay. We have asked the landlord who in turn asked the home owner. There has been no response from either. Please advise.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Billy,

      If you have a fixed-term lease, no notice is needed as the lease simply expires. (RCW §§ 59.04.030).

      Without a lease that extends past your end date, you cannot stay in the house without risking financial damages, eviction, and damage to your credit.

      Sorry that’s not the answer you are looking for, but I hope it clarifies things.

  • Mark

    We are presently renting a single family home in Washington state. Our landlord has indicated to us that they intend on selling their home. They have informed us that they wish to have the house on the market in two to three weeks.
    My questions are as follows:
    1. The landlord has indicated that they want the landscaping completed by the start of the showing and has only given us a couple of weeks to complete the outstanding landscaping.
    2. The lease terminates in four months, are we required to have the home available for showings for the entire four months or is there a timeline that they are required to follow (ie: only allowed to show the house 2 months prior to the termination of the lease).
    3. If part of the lease indicates that the Landlord may post “for sale” signs and enter the home for the purpose of showing the home to possible buyers 60 days prior to the termination of the lease, do they have to wait until this time or can the show person the home at any time.

    Also, the landlord wants to take pictures with our furniture (have the house staged with our furniture), are we required to let them photograph our furniture in their home and post the pictures for the sale of their home. Do they need written consent from us prior to posting pictures of our furniture online??

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mark,

      1. Why are you responsible for getting the landscaping ready for showings? I understand why you are responsible for general landscaping, but you shouldn’t have to do anything extra besides general maintenance just so he can showcase the house.

      2. I’m not aware of any statute that regulates when he can show the house. Generally speaking, a property owner is allowed to sell their house whenever they want. The sale of the property won’t cause your lease to terminate early, but unfortunately, you will have to put up with showings.

      3. If the lease indicates that the landlord can only showcase the home in the last 60 days, I suppose he would have to abide by the lease. But I’m not sure why he/she would limit themselves like that. I suppose you could claim a “lease violation” if they don’t follow their own rules, and attempt to terminate the lease early if you wanted to.

      A landlord is allowed to photograph his/her property (inside and out). As long as they give proper notice before coming over, then you can’t really stop them. Taking pictures of general property rooms and features (even closets) is a legitimate business need. If they are opening up your kitchen cabinets and taking pictures of only your personal belongings, then you can claim invasion of privacy. The purpose of giving notice is so that you can put away anything that you don’t want photographed. If you really don’t want your furniture in the picture, you are welcome to move it out of the way.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord, trying to help.

  • Josie

    My boyfriends dad went through the court and got a three day eviction notice and had her evicted and he paid 300.00 to have a cop serve papers and shes still there and hasn’t left.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Josie

      If the sheriff just served papers, then it sounds like they haven’t been to court yet – but rather he just terminated the lease. After you bf’s dad goes to court and wins an eviction judgement, then he can hire the sheriff the remove the tenant by force.

  • Darcy

    Hello. I ended a 2.5 year lease on Feb. 28. I paid $1100 for last months rent as well as $600 pet deposit when we moved in. The property management sent me a letter that I receive today that I won’t get any of my deposit back because the living room carpet is stained from our dogs, there is a hole in one of the walls by a bathroom (that we tried to repair),they are saying we did not clean the house (I spent several days cleaning)and it will cost $500 for that, as well as $200 to replace a toliet seat that has a crack in it. Now, I don’t mind paying up for what I legally have to, however, the owner of this 1984 mobile home doesn’t like to put any money into the place as the property managers told me more than once. I know the carpet is old in all the rooms, and feel their claim of $1000 to replace living room carpet and pad is a bit much. She is also hinting it might be more if they have to seal the floor. I have an appt. w/attorney on 25th to see if I have any recourse. I have video.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Darcy,

      It’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Perhaps I can help.

      1. Rarely can a tenant be charged for the full price of replacement carpet. This is because the landlord has clearly gotten some life out of it. Assuming there was excessive damage, a tenant is generally only responsible for the years of expected life that was stolen from the landlord. For example, if the carpet has an expected lifespan of 7.5 years, and it was new when you moved-in, but you damaged it beyond repair, then you would only have to pay for the 5 years of life that you stole from the landlord. Meaning, you’d only have to pay for 2/3rds of the new (similar) carpet. Make sense?
      Here’s a podcast episode that I did on the topic: http://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/010-carpet-damage/

      2. A $200 toilet seat is ridiculous! Is it make of gold? A toilet seat costs $10-$50, and labor is 10 minutes to install.

      3. Generally speaking, a tenant cannot be held responsible for normal wear and tear. It’s arguable as to what that means, but I can tell you that holes in the wall are never considered “normal” – so you may have to pay to fix that properly.

      It’s a good thing that you are talking to an attorney. I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. If you find that the landlord is wrongfully withholding a security deposit, then one of your next options is to sue the landlord in small claims court.

  • Mikie

    Hi im Mikie, i used to live at Ten20 [UDR property in Bellevue] for 2 years. During those times i always ended up arguing with the company accountant about the fees that she randomly added into my account. Most of the time if it doesnt make sense, the property manager will refund reverse the fees for me.[they dont like me and my girlfriend a lot] until Jan 20, our lease ended and the management requested that we sign hard copy lease instead of do it online like we used to[for no reason] my cosigner was upset and decided to move since they dont like us. Last week we received the final bill from UDR say we must pay them $15,961.76 and also say our lease expiration is 2016 not 2015.
    most of the stuff are not even in damaged condition.
    -Entry/Kitchen Slate Tile Replacement 3,000.00
    -Hardwood Replacement 5,185.39
    -Solar Shades Replacement (3) 1,500.00
    -Stove/Range Replacement 2,100.00

    and when i check retail prices its way lower than UDR prices..
    please help me, im new to this.

    also i contacted UDR and property manager a few times to get them to estimate and fix the wooden floor that were damaged a lil due to laundry machine broken and water came out of it. they never show up to fix the floor onli fixed the laundry machine. =( how do i fight back..

    many thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mikie,

      There are a couple of ways to fight back. If they try to bill you for the renovations, for damage that you didn’t cause, then you can reject it and refuse to pay it. If they continue to push you and damage your credit, then you should take them to court. If you hire a lawyer (which I strongly suggest), then you could even ask the judge to make UDR pay for your legal bills if you win.

      Since the total amount is almost $16K, you’ll have to seek help from a higher court than small claims.

      Good luck! Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. But with a lawsuit like that, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a lawyer who is willing to take on an apartment complex.

  • Mikie

    Ah thank you for the reply ^^
    now..do i have right to ask for the bill/receipt from UDR? or only lawyer can get that from them in WA. i dont know where to start but this site is really helpful ^^

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mikie,

      If they are trying to charge you for something, it seems logically for you to be able to request a copy of the actual bill/receipt. You can certainly ask, but I don’t know if they will give it to you (especially if they are falsify numbers). It makes sense that they should have to validate the expenses.

      If they are trying to withhold from your deposit, they are required to provide an itemized list of damages and charges per RCW §§ 59.18.280
      http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.280

      Again, you’re talking about a lot of money. A lawyer would be super helpful to you (which I am not). If you can’t afford one, you should check out one of the many legal aid service providers in Washington.

      Here are two:
      Columbia Legal Services – http://www.columbialegal.org/index.php
      Northwest Justice Project – http://nwjustice.org/get-legal-help

  • Eric

    hi
    I have two tenants that live side by side in a duplex they are always complaining about one another weather it be parking noise or just one just saying something to the other
    I have several times told them on the noise late at night to just call the police but they won’t
    What can I do I’m to the point where I’ve told both of them I would let them out of there lease and they could move but they tell me they don’t want to and the other one should move

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Eric,

      I’ve previously had to deal with tenants who have complained about each other, but they refuse to do anything about it.

      I finally got fed up and finally just said, “As a landlord, I can’t get involved with noise/nuisance complaints unless you file a police report. If the nuisance is not annoying enough to call the police and file an official police report, then it’s not severe enough to call me. Grow up and work it out among yourselves. Treat each other how you would want to be treated.

      Okay, okay, I wasn’t that harsh, but you get the idea.

      After all, the police report is really the only proof of the actual nuisance (unless you drive over there to listen to it for yourself). But a police report will provide you with valid evidence to cite a noise/lease violation, and to terminate the lease if the tenant fails to remedy the situation. Otherwise, without the report, it’s just hearsay.

      You are more kind than I to offer to let them out of the lease. I would have forced them to be grown ups and deal with it like adults. The chances are good that both tenants are disrespectful, and feed off of each other. It’s not your problem unless they start damaging property or annoying other neighbors down the street, or you get fined by the police.

      Please keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer – so please don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Sharon

    Hi,
    I served a tenant a 3-Day Pay Rent or Vacate Notice. It has been 1.5mos since and he has failed to pay. I am about to file the Unlawful Detainer suit against him, but am wondering if I would be able to get him out sooner. My month to month signed lease agreement with the tenant states we must give each other 60 days notice before terminating the lease. In my case now, can I count the day I served the Pay or Vacate Notice to him as Day 1 and make him vacate in 1 month (60 days from the day I served the Notice)? Or do I need to continue the eviction process with the suit against him? Thank you

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sharon,

      The general notice that is required to terminate a month-to-month only applies when rent is being paid on time. If the tenant fails to pay rent, their lease can be terminated much sooner: 3 days (RCW §§ 59.12.030(3)

      If the nonpaying tenant fails to pay or vacate in 3 days, then the landlord can start the eviction process on day 4. There’s no need to wait 60 days. But even so, you’ll have to spend a few weeks going through the court hearing, and hiring the sheriff for the forceful eviction.

      If you can convince him to leave sooner, then you’ll save yourself a few weeks of time, money and headache. I recently wrote an article about a technique called “Cash for Keys”, and it might serve you well in a situation like this: http://www.landlordology.com/cash-for-keys-bad-tenants-move-out/

      Please know that I am not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. Since you are considering going through the courts, it would be wise for you to consult an attorney, because your county may have additional rules.

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