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

  • Christopher Davenport

    A friend is renting a a apartment and her and her boyfriend invited me to move in as long as I paid have the rent abd utilities. Only one of them are in the lease. I gave the first months rent and my half of the set amount of utilities to my friends boyfriend who isn’t on the lease as was directed by my friend. It was a verbal, all three of us and two other witnesses were present when all was agreed upon. Not even three days unto the month, they get a pay or vacate notice. Now my girlfriend is staying with me and our newborn daughter and I don’t know what to do. They won’t give me my money back, if they can’t get the rent paid by the deadline am I to vacate with our newborn and become homeless? Or can I get the landlord to let us stay?

  • Julie Reese

    What are the tenants remedies if the landlord / property manager fails to adhere to the lease. Lease stated that a washer and dryer and 2 closet rods would be installed prior to move in. This did not take place, in fact I had to call the delivery people to find out he booked the delivery for one week after our move in date. Then continue to follow up with him to actually get them 2 days late. The closet rods I had to go buy and coordinate with the handyman to have installed. Had the w/d been installed the property manager would have been faced with the backed up water line I was faced with the day they put the washer in. Seems the plumbing is a mess. Full bath will have to be gutted and redone. House is a flip, no one lived since new owner.

  • Melissa

    I signed a lease agreement stating I would not sublet as a tenant, however I did and it was a massive fail. Long story short, the “friend” I decided to move in had stated her and her boyfriend would be out beginning of April, (neither of them can prove they made any payments to us btw). Today, said friend stated they would be out by tonight, 03/29/16 also made threats that if we “touched her things she would return the favor. ” After all the back and forth banter died down, we thought we would be ahead of the curb and changed the locks, come to find out that was the worse thing we could do. She will contact our landlord/property management and she will sue. Is there anything we can do? Any loop holes, anything?!

  • Melissa

    I should state police were contacted upon roommates arrival home as my bf unlocked door she assaulted him with a shove and threatened to punch him, unfortunately there was no proof besides his word and my hearing. She was let in immediately, although the locks were still changed and that doesn’t help our case and she was able to move all her things out following her entrance and the arrival of police, wherein we learned the terrible mistake of our ways. Please any advice would really help to calm my nerves, she’s a super spiteful person and she’s out for blood, I just got a new job. I’m already more than likely going to be late for rent, I’m so worried about my impending future…

  • synthia

    my landlord does drivebys and knocks on my door when ever she wants and comes onto my rental property when ever she wants and complains I have too much stuff she wants nothing outside …I rent a house from her and have potted plants and a patio set she says I can not have the patio set it is her property and I cant have it ….there is nothing in my lease that says that only not to accumulate too much by doors because of emergencies …I am wanting to sue her for harassment I feel uncomfortable with her constantly watching me and my home I pay my rent on time and have no problems other than this… please give me ur advise or opinion tx

  • Rasheedah

    Hi, what are the rules pertaining to living with a boyfriend/girlfriend and not being on the lease? I’m trying to see if me and my current boyfriend can have a way out (if the relationship doesn’t work out; been a bumpy road).

  • Tara

    I am a community manager and new to this profession. I have a tenant who has stayed past her move out notice date. No keys have been turned in and no communication she needs to stay longer. It’s only been 2 days past move out date. What should my next steps be? I have been reading the tenant landlord laws for Washington state and can’t find anything specific except the option to charge prorated rent or full month rent
    Thank you in advance for your help

  • Atlas

    A requirement to list my apartment complex as an additional insured and to have coverage through the length of the lease has been added in a letter to me.

    This means I have to pay more insurance even though I renew my insurance annually which I’ve done and shown proof of annually. Is this legal per WA law? Thanks.

  • sandra

    If I am renting out my home in WA state, but will be living out of state, do I need to have a local agent to coordinate issues with the rental or can I manage everything myself from out of state? obviously I will return to the home if needed, or simply call on subcontractors / handymen/ plumbers/ electrician/ etc. I had read online that there needs to be a local agent in the same county as the rental property if the landlord livers out of state, however when I read the laws it didn’t seem to be quite as clear. Thank you for any help or clarity you can provide.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sandra,

      It really depends on your county rules – so check with them.

      However, it would be wise to have a local point of contact to handle emergencies if they come up. That could be a local handyman that you trust, a neighbor, or even a property manager.

      • Yvette

        Question 1: Our apt complex located in Washington State has just been taken over by Targa Property Management beginning Nov. 2016.
        We paid rent and utilities for Nov on time at the rental office on 11/3/16 but ours and other tenants checks have not been cashed to date. Is there a law (RCW ) to reference how long they can hold rental and utilities: (water/garbage) checks before cashing?

        Question 2: Our lease is due for renewal by Dec 30, 2016. By law what is the deadline that we should receive the new lease agreement if the old one expires Dec 30, 2016?

  • Taniesha Williams

    I am currently renting a condominium the property was for closed on and taken over by current landlord whom did not sign a new lease with me the standing lease by original owner is month to month…I’ve been paying rent to the current owner since march he came over tonight and handed me back this current months rent and advised me that I have u days to vacate because he has sold the property to someone else …my question is is that legal I was under the impression that because I am month to month I have 30 days from recieval of written notification…

  • Taniesha Williams

    I am currently renting a condominium the property was forclosed on and taken over by current landlord whom did not sign a new lease with me the standing lease by original owner is month to month…I’ve been paying rent to the current owner since march he came over tonight and handed me back this current months rent and advised me that I have 7 days to vacate because he has sold the property to someone else …my question is is that legal I was under the impression that because I am month to month I have 30 days from recieval of written notification…

  • Alyssa Cole

    Hello, I have a huge problem with our apartment complex. The management just posted that we are not able to ACCESS OUR HOME between the hours of 8-5 next week due to them spraying chemicals on the stairway up to the homes…..
    They stated that residents need to be out of the home ALL week during those hours. They are not going to compensate a place to stay, or money for arrangements that residents need to make for time lost (not to mention a place to reside in during those hours).
    Is this legal or not?
    We simply cannot be away from our home during those hours—we have young children, and cannot accommodate their request at this time. What are our rights as residents for this kind of situation??? Please help and advise.
    Thank you

  • Bob Fairchild

    In Washington (not Seattle) are the rules regarding rentals the same if you are renting a room in your home as they would be for an apartment? Example: Does the landlord still have to give 20 days written notice before terminating the monthly lease?

  • chris

    Hello, question my apt complex has hired a new security company and they are asking everyone for id every time we enter even though we have keypads I am a tenant and have to show id I feel like I am living in a prison I was told if I do not show id I will get a 10 day notice. Eviction no where in my lease does it say I must show id Ni feel my privacy and my guests privacy are being violated is this legal?

  • Cathy

    I live in Washington state where I own an older mobile home on the rented site lot. I received notice that I have to give a date and time within the next three weeks for the property manager to come inside my mobile home to do an inspection. Is this legal?

    I can understand inspecting the outside of the home and the carport, but not the inside. Thank you

  • Michelle

    Is the garage area that comes with my unit concerted part of my living area? Can my landlord enter my garage to get to his area on a daily basis without notice

    • Aaron Whitson

      Garage areas are not considered living areas especially in the determination of square footage of dwellings. That being said, any unit included in a lease or rental agreement, including even a simple cabinet above your parking spot that can be locked restricting access is still afforded the same considerations as your living areas. For non-emergencies 2 days notice is still required. Exceptions to this are that if the garage area is a shared access area meaning more than one unit’s tenants are provided use, especially if the other user is the landlord and they use a portion of the area for tools storage for example. It is unreasonable to expect notice. This should noted for clarification in the rental agreement.

  • joyce

    after move in we did not receive anything from the local electric company regarding a change in billing information. evidently they continued to send the bill to the owner of the apts. after residing here for 2 months the apt manager came to me with an amount he said the landlord told him he had paid to the electric company on our behalf and wanted to be reimbursed.
    shortly after that we received notice from the electric company regarding a change in the billing information.
    the owner is asking us to pay the amount of electricity to him without giving us an actual copy of the original bill and since we were supposed to pay it last month along with the monthly rental amount, he has tacked on a $20 late fee.

    Is that legal?? can he do that?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Joyce,

      Couldn’t you call the electric company to verify the amounts that your landlord is claiming?

      The $20 late fee seems shady since he didn’t tell you about the bills.

      Also, what does your lease say – should you have been proactive instead of waiting for someone else to tell you how to handle the electric? Usually tenant will call the electric company to find out instead of waiting to be chased.

  • Max Johnson

    I have lived with my girlfriend for 20 years. She owns the house, I have done a lot of work out of my own pocket and time, a household utility is in my name and has been for the last 16+ years, now she wants to kick me out. Can she legally do that to me at this time?

  • Dennis

    My wife and I are have to move due to her health issues. We reexamined the lease agreement and have found the following issues.
    The 3 year contract was NOT notarized.
    We paid a $3000.00 deposit, but Paragraph 2 Says verbatim”Deposit. There are NO refundable monies or deposits. There was no written notice where he put deposit.
    Tenants are solely responsible for all repairs to the house.
    Landlord did NOT provide handout for mold as required by WA. RCW, nor a copy of homeowners rules we must follow.
    These are the major problems. Im sure there are more.
    Seeking best course of action.
    Dennis

  • Kendra

    I moved into an apartment complex June 1st of 2016 with my now ex-boyfriend. Everything was fine up until late June when his job started to slow down and so did his income. As a result, I was left to pay for everything including food, rent, gas/water/sewage etc. He then took his name of the lease toward the end of June and the landlord allowed him to without consulting with me. Though I tried numerous times to kick him out including calling the sheriff on multiple occasions, Washington state law says that I can’t put someone out of my home once they’ve established residence. He stayed in my home rent free without paying on anything. He moved out 8/31. he did sign a promissory note that he would help me. Can I sue him for nonpayment of rent?

  • Richard Gaston

    I just received a notice of Rental Increase from $725 to $902 (odd amount). We have lived in the Legacy Park Apartments (formally called Sage Terrace Apartments) here in Lakewood, Wa. We are on Section 8 Housing which means even with the rent increase our portion is still the same so I have no complaints on having to pay more. But my question is this, we have lived here for over 15 years, we have had 4 managers tell us that they can not increase our rent, it has been capped off, that it was illegal to increase our rent. Now we have a new manager and all of a sudden our Rent has been increased and this new manager told us that it was legal for them to do that, how is it legal when 3 other managers said it was illegal, including the last mgr?

  • Les

    There is a house on my street in Lynnwood where the landlord has 9 tenants in a single family residence. I am sure there is a law against this, the living conditions cannot be sanitary.

  • Kathy

    Can my landlord legally force me to allow him to store his personal stuff in my garage? I am renting a duplex with an attached garage that is part of my rental contract. My landlord called to say he bought a used dryer and that he is going to store it in my garage. He told me that it is his perogative to do so because he owns the duplex. The tenants in the other half of the duplex have two garages and he doesn’t force them to do this. I believe he is taking advantage of the fact that I am a single woman alone and the other tenant is a man. What are my rights? Please email me an answer. Thank you.

  • Heidi

    Hi,

    How much time does a landlord have to do a move out inspection? We moved out of rental we had been in for 7 years Sept. 30. We got a check dated 10-19 for a partial return of our deposit. The out of state landlord stated he had not yet inspected the property after we moved even- though it had been almost 3 weeks. He sent a letter stating he would return the rest if he determines we didn’t damage the house when he gets around to coming to town to inspect it. We have no idea or control over what may have happened to the property since we moved.

    What recourse- if any -do we have?

    Thank you ,

    Heidi

  • John

    I signed a 1 year lease. I emailed my landlord and asked her what I needed to do to break the lease. She said it is standard to pay 1 month rent. I said fine. Then I placed an offer on a home and they accepted my offer. I put a down payment on the home to secure it. Then a week later my landlord changed her mind and said I was obligated to the full year lease. There is 6 months left. I never would have put an offer on the home if she hadn’t told me 1 months rent to break the lease. Now I’m stuck paying rent on a place I don’t live in as I’ve moved into my new home that I purchased.
    Does her email stating 1 month rent to break the lease override the written lease of 1 year?

    • Tara

      Your landlord cannot collect double rent so if you have to pay for the next 6 months she cannot re rent the property if you have to pay the rent you are still under the lease and she still has to go by the laws as if you still live there now if she re rents you are off the hook it voids your lease because she cannot double collect on rent

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