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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397 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Anya

    My tenants moved out and left damages that exceeded their deposit. What can I do to collect that aside from taking them to court (I don’t have a forwarding address). I heard about making a claim against them to collection and a claim on their history that other landlords would see. Do you know any of those history list that I can make a claim on and what about collection agency? Thanks a lot!!!!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Anya,

      Personally, I don’t like “blacklists” sites. I think they usually just feed a beast of false and subjective data. Though your tenants clearly caused you damage, going through small claims court is certainly the best way to win a true judgement. That judgement will help you file a collections claim, and even wage or tax refund garnishment.

      Without the judgement, the tenants could come back and sue you damaging their credit.

      If you don’t know where they live, I suggest trying to track them down via facebook, or any number of fee-based databases on the web.

      You could also try to get their info from the post office. If you send a letter to the last known address, and place the term “Address Service Requested” on it, the Post Office will share their forwarding address with you! Here is a helpful page: http://pe.usps.com/text/qsg300/Q507.htm

    • sarah

      How do I file a summons and complaint for tenants who abandon my rental property prior to the expiration of the lease as well as left damages, extensive cleaning and excessive debris on the property ?

      • Lucas Hall

        Hi Sarah,

        There’s really no such thing as filing a “complaint”. Further, a “summons” is to request that someone attends a court date.

        If you want to sue the tenant for damages (assuming you’ve already withheld the full deposit), then you should consider filing a case with your local county Small Claims court. You can represent yourself, and sue a tenant for damages less than $5,000. Be sure to have an itemized list of damages, and receipts to prove your losses.

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

  • Sharon

    Hi Lucas, thank you so much for your reply. Your reply led me to another question, how does a landlord show the late payment delinquency on a tenant’s credit report? I know they say it can affect a tenant’s credit report but am unfamiliar with how to do that.

    Another thing I am worried about is if the tenant does end up vacating my property but still owes me the money. If I don’t know where he lives, how would the court make him pay? Do I have to have their SSN to find them?

    Thanks so much for your replies, this is such a great resource!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sharon

      Generally speaking, the three credit bureaus don’t track late rent. Experian has a system but it only integrates with a few select online rent payment systems and the data is sparse at best.

      When some is referring to late rent affecting a tenants credit, it is almost always after the landlord has sued he tenant and won a judgement. Then, taken that judgement to a collections agency who then files it as a debt on the tenants credit report.

      It’s vital to first get the judgment otherwise, who’s to say the late rent was fairly charged?

      There are some great “people-finder” websites out here, but most of the good ones cost a small fee.

      The trick I use to get the tenants new address is that I ask the tenant (usually in an email): “where should I send the deposit refund?”. They will usually send me and address without thinking it through. Even if they won’t be getting any money back from the deposit, I still ask this question because they usually have no idea how much damage they actually caused.

      If that doesn’t work, you can send a letter addressed to them at their last known address (your rental). If you place the words “address service requested” on the front, the post office will send you a little note a few days later which details their forwarding address. You can learn more here: http://pe.usps.com/text/qsg300/Q507.htm

      Again, I’m not lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

  • Lynn

    Hi Lucas,

    My tenant has given me 30 days notice that she will be terminating a 1 year lease early. She has 9 months remaining on the signed rental/lease. I have read varying opinions on the RCW 59.18Tenant/Landlord Act. It is my understanding that she may owe the entire remaining balance of the lease term or for the number of months until I am successful in re-renting the property. I have also read that it may be only a 1 month rental fee that I am entitled to collect. I also wondered if it is permitted under early termination circumstances if I may withhold any or all the tenants damage deposit to cover any unpaid rent costs. I am most grateful for whatever clarification you can provide. Thank you kindly

  • Sharon

    Hi Lucas,

    If a tenant has failed to pay rent and I begin the court process to have him physically removed, there isn’t really any reason the tenant would win the case, correct? If I, the landlord, wins the judgement, what are my options of actually receiving all the money back? What is there that “makes” the tenant pay when they are ordered to? Is it difficult or likely garnishing wages would be an option in this case?

    Thank you,
    Sharon

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sharon,

      There are lots of excuses that a tenant can give in order to try an win an eviction case against them. It’s up to the judge to decide of their excuses merit support. For example, a tenant will often be allowed to stay if the landlord changes the locks or lowers the services, as a form of intimidation. Or if the tenant was withholding rent dues to lack of habitability.

      Even if you win a judgement for a debt, you still have to collect on it. Collections agencies are abysmal and have a very low success rate. You could garnish their wages or even take a tax refund garnishment if you are willing to do your homework.

      If a tenant disobey a court order, the judge can have them put in jail, or even order a bank to withdraw the money. But keep in mind, a judgement is different from a court order.

      The first step is to get the tenant out of the house, and to win a judgement for the debt. Then you can figure out how best to collect it. First things first.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • Michelle

    can you please provide some clarity on a property owner who wishes to sell a current rental unit and the buyer is not going to continue the lease but is going to occupy the property. The current lease is a for one year and has 11 months remaining. I found some information on the Seattle Code Compliance relating to the “just cause and eviction ordinance” and am not sure if it means writtien notice just the two months prior to the lease expiration or if 60 days now and tenant must vacate within 60 days from receipt of the notice (give May 1st and must vacate by July 1)

    “The owner desires to sell a single family residence and gives the tenant written notice at least 60 days prior to the end of a rental period.”

    Also, would you provide the RCW number for the “Just Cause Eviction Ordinance”, please? THANKS!

  • Patti

    Lucas,
    I rent an apartment in the basement of my home. The bathroom needs some work that may take up to a week. It will be unusable during that time. What is my obligation to the tenant?
    Thank you….

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Patti,

      Thanks for the questions. A landlord must provide a working bathroom, otherwise the unit becomes uninhabitable. You could either put the tenant up in a hotel, let the tenant use your bathroom with unrestricted access, refund the rent for those days, or a combination of these options. Basically, if you expect to collect rent, you have to provide a habitable dwelling.

      When i’ve been faced with this situation, I usually try to wait until the tenant goes on vacation, and then I renovate while they are gone. But sometimes, I realize, repairs can’t wait that long.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • MARIANNE MORAN

    Our landlord has promised to give us our security deposit, pet deposit and give us one month’s rent. He was selling the house, but now he is being taken off of the title with other co-owner’s. He has had multiple stories, and we have to vacate in 30 days. Is there some verbiage that I could write down and have him sign to protect us? Also, can I write a reference for us, and have him sign it? We may contact the other owners and find out if we could stay here as renters. So, in case we can’t do that, we would need the reference from the landlord, and he may be offended that we contacted the other owners. He has said we are great tenants, but he also said he would give us 60 days, and didn’t do what he promised. Other renters on the property were not given their money back, and I think he is in financial trouble, taxes unpaid on property for two years, we found out.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marianne,

      I believe it’s all going to come down to what type of lease you have. If you have a month-to-month lease, then you have very little protection. If you have a fixed-tem lease, then you have a legal right to occupy the property for the full term even if the property changes ownership.

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

      If I were you, I see if he would be willing to sign a new lease with you. But even so, I’m not sure how much it would hold up since he’s not the only owner of the property.

      If I were you, I’d continue to play my cards with the landlord, but if I did’t have a fixed lease, then I would also start looking for another place to live. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to the potential new owners and see what their plans are. Maybe they will let you stay, but perhaps they want to move-in right away. Wouldn’t you want to know either way?

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • Caya

    I rent my home through a rental agency. The lease was just terminated early by the renter and they left major damage. The rental company says they do a quarterly “walk through” with all being in order at the end of February. The new walk through would have been in May (however they vacated the premises). Is this something I have to pursue typically or the rental company? The company is trying to say all carpets and walls need painted when not even a year ago this was completed.

    Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Caya

      This sounds like a situation where the management company didn’t do an adequate job monitoring the place, and now want you to pay for repairs so they can have an easier time finding a tenant.

      Unless the damage is VERY severe, you probably don’t need to repaint. If I were you, I’d pay to have the carpets professionally cleaned, and for a handyman to spend an hour cleaning the walls with a Mr. Clean Magic Erasure. You’d be surprised how well that works.

      Then, I’d withhold the carpet cleaning from the tenants deposits. I sure hope the management company didn’t already give back the deposit w/o your permission. If so, then they clearly don’t know what they are doing and it might be time to find another company or manage it yourself. Id even threaten to charge them for the damage since they gave back the deposit.

      Why was the tenant allowed to break the lease anyway? Do you have an early termination fee? If they broke the lease without permission, you can still hold them responsible for the lent until someone else is found.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • ZVD

    My tenant signed the lease agreement as a single woman. Then I found out that the boyfriend moved in. Since the boyfriend moved in, appliances started breaking (which I paid for). Now they are moving out next month. Should I have an ability to raise rent retroactively for the last 3 months that the boyfriend lived there?
    thanks
    ZVD

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi ZVD

      Is this scenario described in your lease? If so, then *i think* you could retroactively charge the rent increase.

      For example, I had a tenant who was getting ready to leave. At that time, I found out that the tenant had moved out 3 months prior and was subletting it without approval. Though it would be redundant to try and terminate the lease that was already ending, I could however charge the $100 per month subletting fee that was in the lease. Therefore, I charged a subletting fee for every month that there was a subletter, because it was already specified in the lease – and I felt validated. I ended up holding the fee amount from the deposit and there wasn’t much the tenant could say about it.

      If your lease describes a specific rent increase for each extra tenant, then I could see how you could retroactively charge it. But if your lease is silent on this situation, then you really can’t make up rules/fees now.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

  • amber

    My sister rents a building for her business. Her landlord, is ending her tenancy with a 20 day notice. Can he board up windows and remodel while she is still running her business the last couple weeks?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Amber,

      Commercial leases are different than residential leases. They are more cut-throat, however I would imagine that your sister is entitled to the same level of service on the last day of her lease as she received on the 1st day. If he negatively interferes with her business she might have damages that she could sue him for. However, she would certainly need to talk to a lawyer about it (which I am not).

  • judi

    I have rented for 5 years, now landlord is wanting last months plus deposit; there has never been anything in writing. He told me I have 60 days to do this.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Judi,

      If you don’t have a written lease, nor a fixed-term agreement, then your tenancy will likely be considered a “month-to-month” rental. As such, the landlord can change the terms of the agreement every month, with 30 days notice, and if you don’t agree to them, you can move-out without penalty. The statutes to change or terminate a monthly agreement are in the article above.

      I whole-heartily agree that the landlord should have a security deposit, but I disagree with collecting last month’s rent – especially if you have paid your rent on time every month.

      Good luck to you. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Heather

    In August of 2014 I missed rent and she charged me 55$ and 5$ a day . other then August I paid every months rent plus an extra sometimes up to 500$ on my 950$ rent to make up for the late fees and the month I missed. I asked her several time for the amount left owing and she always had an excuse for why she couldn’t provide me with a total. About a week ago she made a comment to me about how I had paid last year off with the money I had just provided to her. I said I’ve been paying you at least 1300 a month and your saying I haven’t touched any money owed for 2015. She said that the late fees where eating me alive. Basically she applies the money I give her to the late fees only, which leave me still owing for the month and then recharges me the fees. Then last night I asked for all of my rental receipts, she told me no and evicted me. On the notice it says I’m behind 5700.00 ? She told me to go quietly and she wouldn’t sue me or ruin my reputation. Is this legal? Help please

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Heather,

      Sorry for the late reply. Whether or not this is wrongful depends on the lease agreement you signed. Many times, any payments that a tenant makes must go to paying any fees first, and then anything left over goes towards rent. However, if your landlord plans on pursuing you for the supposed fees, she’ll need an accurate accounting record – which it sounds like she doesn’t have.

      My question to you is why haven’t you been keep track of this. You obviously don’t trust her, so why wouldn’t you ask for a receipt at the time of payment, or at least keep your own personal record of it. If neither party has any real evidence, then I don’t see how either could successfully win a lawsuit.

      Anyway, I wish I could help more, but I think you’d need a lawyer (which I’m not) if she presses the issue. Please know that though I’m an experienced landlord, this is not legal advice. Best of luck to you.

  • Carrie

    Hello, I moved out of a rental of over 4 1/2 years. My landlord is retaining my deposit on the basis of 10 late rental payments (days late, never more than 5). Our rental contract allows for $50 late fee for any late payments. However, over the course of our tenancy he never notified us we were late, or that he needed a late fee, or I would have paid it at the time the payment was late. I feel this is unreasonable to accrue the fees with no notice for that length of time. For example, I have late fees written into my utility or credit card contracts, and they notify me of those fees as they are charged, not when I close my account after 4+ years. I would suggest it fair to collect any late fees from the past 90 days, or even 180 days. What are your thoughts?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Carrie,

      I hear what your saying, and it would be reasonable to expect a notice. Further, I think every good-intentioned landlord should send a reminder.

      However, generally speaking if the late fee and grace period is identified in the lease, then no notice is needed. The tenant is responsible for reading the lease, and understanding the deadlines. If the lease says a late fee will occur after day 3, and you submit rent on day 5, then you should already know it’s late. Just like a landlord doesn’t have to remind the tenant every month that rent is due, a tenant should know when rent is late. But you would think that after the landlord didn’t get the late fee, he/she would come looking for it, right?!?!

      I don’t know if this will help you, but the statute of limitations in Washington is 6 years for a written contract, and 3 years for an oral contract: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/statute-of-limitations-state-laws-chart-29941.html

      Anyway, I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Avis Ferguson

    My landlord informed me last year that instead of my usual 12 month lease (for
    the past 10 years), I would be required to accept a ten month lease. Since rent is
    raised about $150. a year, this is great for them. Beginning next month (July)
    I have been raised $154. instead of in September. Most tenants kept the 12 month.
    Is this not a discriminating action??

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Avis,

      Generally speaking, at renewal time, a landlord is allowed to offer whatever type of lease works best for their business. The tenant is under no obligation to accept it, but also can’t force a landlord to sign a lease for a term that they are unwilling to offer.

      Discrimination could be a factor if you are being offered a lesser term or a different price because of your inclusion in one of the protected classes. If the landlord would have offered a 10 month lease to anyone in your unit, then it really wouldn’t be discrimination.

      Anyway, I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

      To learn more about the federally protected classes, read this article: http://www.landlordology.com/know-what-is-considered-illegal-discrimination/

      Your state might also have other protected classes.

  • Sosha Green

    We received a text from our landlord stating they’d be over the next day after 2pm. Neither of us were home the next day, and when we returned there were 20-day (our lease states 30 days from either party is needed) lease termination papers throughout the condo, even on each of our beds. Everywhere but on the door. I believe this is a violation of some sort, can you expand upon this? Also, my brother whom moved out 7 months ago and didn’t sign the last lease, received texts stating any legal actions would go on his record since he’s on lease. He asked for a copy of last lease, as copy wasn’t provided to any of us. He was told that they have it, but will not provide it until the condo is vacated by mother and myself, or “until the dust settles”. Is this even legal to withhold?

  • lindsay

    Dave,
    I have a messy situation. On march 1st my boyfriend and I moved into a room in an apartment of a man we met off Craigslist. It was very lax with no deposits or agreements, only for us to go into the main office and fill out an application within the first month. Three weeks later he moved in his girlfriend and her kids. We didn’t know how the situation would pan out so we held back on applying. It turned out to be utter madness confining us mostly to our room when we were home. Fast forward to May 11th. He wanted us to go and apply within two weeks or we had to move. We were perfect tentents, always paying on time and never loud or causing problems. That same day my boyfriend went to the landlord and asked him if he minded if he smoked marijuana, since its now legal. He said no problem just go outside. Four days later I got a text at midnight saying my boyfriend had to leave immediately for drug use but I could stay.
    What are my rights here? We have nowhere to go and we’re broke

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lindsay,

      With verbal agreements, it’s really tough to enforce your rights. You certainly have rights as a tenants, but without a written agreement, your tenancy will likely be considered month-to-month. In that situation, either party can terminate it with only 20 days notice. (RCW §§ 59.18.200(1a-b)) http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.200

      So, while a landlord can’t terminate a lease for pot use after giving approval to do it, a landlord doesn’t need a reason to terminate a monthly agreement.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help. If you want to stay there (even though he has taken over the place), you’d probably need to talk to a lawyer, or a free legal aid provider. There are a few providers mentioned in the article above. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. Good luck to you!

  • April

    We are leasing a house which was to be cleaned and all the walls painted ! The owner lived in the house for 17plus years
    .. I have pictures of the way the house was left for us to move into and in the lease they put they are not responsible for any repair to the refrigerator wash machine? Yet they left them is this legal also the carpets are as old as the house and are nasty is there a way I can make them replace the carpets
    I had already turned our keys over to our last lands because they where selling their house we had no choice but to move into this nasty house! This house gives me severe anxiety and I am so extremely depressed and it! I can’t stand living in this house and we are paying 2000.00 and it’s just dirty and can’t get it clean .also they never had the furnace for the ductwork cleaned before we moved in and it just blows nasty 20-year-old dust throughout our house. I also smell mold in our bathroom which in a year we have never used the shower because the grout was gone

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi April,

      If you think that the house is uninhabitable, you could certainly try to to call the local housing authority, or the code enforcement office. They *might* send out an inspector to evaluate the situation.

      Alternatively, it might be better for if you try to negotiate a lease termination, and then you could move out. Clearly, the landlord didn’t keep up their end of the deal (assuming you have it in writing). It might be worth paying a lawyer to draft up a stern letter, asking for these repairs, or you will terminate your lease (if that’s what you want).

      Good luck to you. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • jess

    I recently hired a property manager and the received application from someone and approved. however, they refuse to provide any info about the new tenant due to fair housing law except that they will let me have a copy of the lease when signed. I feel uncomfortable of not knowing anything about the tenant they screened for me because I will be fully responsible of anything about this tenant in the future.
    is it true that I don’t have any right to see or know anything about the tenant including application package, job stability, background check results etc. ?
    Thanks much

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jess,

      Your PM is being ridiculous. While it doesn’t matter about demographic stuff (age, race, gender, etc), you have a right to review and approve or reject the applications. Further, I always think its a bad idea to allow a PM to sign the lease for you. That’s just crazy to me. The lease sounds be between the owner and the tenant. As such, the owner should be part for the process. Yes, the PM should do all the admin work, but he shouldn’t be making big decisions for you, or signing contracts for you.

      It sounds like you need to have a little heart to heart with your PM, and if you don’t like the way he works, fire him.

  • gertrude

    recently bought a home and have our first tenants living in the lower self-sufficient unit. there are two huge awesome parking spots in back of the house which is specifically for and only for the tenants. this was clearly communicated that is where they park. they decide otherwise. i have found them parking in front of the house which we’ve asked them not to do and now they are parking in front of the neighbors house cause “it’s not in front of your (my) house” instead of the provided off-street spots in the back of the house which we bought and installed lighting for at night. how can we enforce this and can we? not sure what else to do but ask them and they are blatantly going against what we’ve communicated. new landlords 2 months in and it’s been nothing but headache. thank you for your advice.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Gertrude,

      It’s always best to have a direct conversation with them. There’s nothing wrong with asking “Why do you continue to park on the street when you have 2 dedicated spots around back?”

      Perhaps they are just weird, or perhaps theres a real reason that you should know about. But with that said, while you can’t prevent them from parking on the street (since it’s open parking), it’s okay to tell them that they can’t park in your spots in your driveway. And it’s okay to tell the that “while not posted, there is a common understanding among neighbors that the spots in front of each house are reserved for the owners of property”.

      If they park on your private property, or a neighbor’s private property, their cars can get towed. It’s okay to let them know of the possible consequences, and you’re “just looking out for them”.

      Just be direct and respectful. If they actually break the lease somehow, then you could send them a notice to remedy or quit. If they are parking illegally somehow, just have them towed, or call parking enforcement.

      Good luck. I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Robin

    I co-Signed for two years on my daughters apt. Each year, I had to sign & complete paper work. The last year, my daughter my daughter decided after a few months of unemployment that she could no longer afford the lease. She entered into a month to month with complex, I was not involved & didn’t sign for another year of co-signing. She gave notice after a few months and moved. Unbeknownst to me, she was a couple of months behind at that time. I found out after she moved. I called the leasing office and asked about my responsibility since I did not sign for an additional year, I was told I was not responsible. Fast fwd 8 months & I received a collection notice for past-due rent. I spoke with collections people & they tell me I am responsible. How can I be when I signed for one year at a time & not on the month to month conversion? What are my rights?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Robin

      I don’t really know. I haven’t seen the lease. But I also don’t see how they could just terminate the lease that you signed without your signature. Because this has already gone to collections, I strongly urge you to contact a lawyer right away. If you move quickly, you could stop this before it creates a lot of damage. Plus, you could sue then Apartment complex for the damages. But again, please consult a lawyer.

  • Doratha Drawdoow

    Hi, my neighbor told me that my landlord hired someone and they have been trying to serve summons and complaint on me 5 times. I wasn’t home. Do they have to keep trying or what might they do now? What can I expect?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Doratha,

      The rules pertaining to service depend on your local county rules. Some counties allow a process server to tape it to a door. Others require it to be in person. Still, others will accept a receipt for certified mail.

      Good luck!

  • Kimberly Peterson

    I have a rental home in outside Seattle. My tenants lease expired June 30th and they have not left the premises. In January, I extended their previous lease for 6 months (to the current June 30th date) and told them at the time that I was selling the home and would not be extending the lease further. A month before the lease expired, they indicated interest in purchasing the home. We’ve been trying to come to an agreement, but the tenant has not come up with a letter that says they are qualified to purchase and they haven’t provided any earnest money. At this point, I want them to vacate the property, but I’m not sure what kind of notice I need to give them. A 3 day notice to pay or vacate indicates I want them to pay rent, but I don’t want to accept rent from them, I want them to vacate. I can’t find a specific Notice to Quit (that isn’t a 20 or 30 day notice- they’ve had 6 months notice that the lease was expiring and they needed to vacate).

    What are my next steps?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kimberly,

      I can’t give you legal advice, but I can say that if I were in your situation, I would tell my tenants their lease has expired, and I will not be accepting rent from them any more. They need to move out immediately, or I will be filing an eviction case with the court – which I could so immediately since their lease expired.

      If I was willing to accept money, and enter into a month-to-month agreement, then a 3 day notice to pay or quit would be appropriate.

      Generally speaking, no notice is needed when you have a fixed-end date. Because the end date is in the lease, it should be known by all parties already.

      Good luck to you. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Christal Gattenby

    I just started month to month at my apartment complex because I’m planning on moving soon. i looked in line to see what my rent is. It states my rent, the rent for my garage and something they call money for being month to month. Are they allowed to do that if not what do I need to do on my end?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Christal,

      It’s very common for a monthly lease to be more expensive than a fixed-term year lease. Monthly leases are more flexible for the tenant, and as such, less secure for the landlord. If the tenant wants a monthly lease, they usually have to pay a higher premium for it. For example, when I was a tenant, my year lease was 1,800/month, but when it came time to renew it, I could sign another year for 1,900/month, or go month-to-month for $3,500/mo! Can you believe that? The monthly lease was almost double the price of a year lease per month.

      Anyway, I can’t tell you what is legal or not, but you could certainly talk to a lawyer (which I am not). Just know that monthly leases usually come at a higher price. Good luck to you.

  • Kyle G

    We are renting an apartment from HNN, and have the following paragraph in the lease agreement.

    “The Tenant is responsible for routine vacuuming, spot cleaning, and shampoo cleaning of the carpet on a regular basis as needed and upon vacating. Shampoo cleaning shall take place only with advance approval of Landlord. Only professional, contract service, licensed and insured carpet cleaners shall perform the work. Upon move-out, Tenant must provide Landlord the original carpet shampooing invoice or receipt for proof of shampooing. ”

    If the carpet is in good condition, not exceeding “normal wear and tear”, is the carpet cleaning upon vacating enforceable under Washington state law?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kyle,

      If the tenant signed an agreement saying they would have the carpet professionally cleaned upon-move out, then it’s a contractual issue, not a normal wear and tear issue. If the carpet was never walked on, and kept in a locked room for the entire lease, the landlord could still make the tenant pay for a shampoo because it was agreed to in the contract. At least that’s my opinion as an experienced landlord.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Sheldon Davis

    We are moving out of an old house we’ve rented for the last five years in Seattle. It was not in the best condition and the landlords have done almost no maintenance. Now they’re saying that the poor condition of the house is our fault and are threatening to sue us in addition to keeping our deposit. We feel it’s wear and tear and the result of not maintaining an aging house. Can we hope to get a fair judgement in small claims court? The landlords tried to bully us into using an unsafe furnace last year and have been nasty ever since they lost that battle. We are leaving the house as clean as we can make it, also there’s no serious damage.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sheldon,

      I really can’t give you legal advice, or tell you your chances of winning in court. But I can say that generally speaking, a tenant can’t be held responsible for normal wear and tear. And that a lease should specify maintenance responsibilities. For example, if the lease says that the tenant must pay for gutter cleanings, then the tenant must take care of it.

      I suggest you take lots of pictures of the place when you leave – so you can document the condition. Hopefully, you have a move-in inspection form that you can compare it to, and it will also help you prove the move-in condition.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

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