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Laws in Washington state provide a specific set of rules that landlords and tenants have to comply with if they want to keep a safe and healthy leasing relationship. About one million tenants are currently in Washington, meaning that this is a great state for landlords to lease their rental property.

However, it's important to note that the leasing rules and clauses can vary depending on where the property is located, which is why all the parties involved should always take a closer look at all the information available for them.

In this article, we're going to provide an overview of all the legal clauses in the state, according to the law. Considering that this is an overview with general information about the subject, we suggest that you seek legal advice with an attorney in the state of Washington if you have any doubts about a specific rental case.

What Does a Rental Agreement Have to Include in the Washington State?

Generally, the information required for a rental agreement can vary depending on the landlord and tenant and the current state law. However, there are some general guidelines that are usually included in these agreements to prevent any legal disputes between the parties involved.

Here is a list of some clauses that landlords must include in their lease:

  • Description of the leased property.
  • Rental payments.
  • Security deposits.
  • Conditions for eviction and termination of the lease

A rental agreement is required by state laws to be written if the lease is longer than 12 months. However, it's always recommended to provide the lease in written form since it can serve as proof of everything agreed upon.

Is Washington a Landlord-Friendly State?

In this case, the Washington state isn't considered a landlord-friendly state, but rather a tenant-friendly state; this is because there are many obligatory disclosures that landlords must provide their prospective tenant at the time of signing the lease document. Additionally, there are some cities in the state that protect their tenants in case the landlord decides to evict them without cause.

What Are the Rights and Responsibilities that the Landlord Must Comply With?

Rights

The landlord is legally allowed to collect rental payments on time, gain the interest earned by the security deposit, and seek a proper eviction process if it's needed.

Responsibilities

Landlord responsibilities include providing a safe housing environment that complies with local laws. Additionally, the landlord must provide repairs to the unit promptly if they're requested by the tenant (usually within 24-72 hours of notice). If the landlord cannot give tenants these repairs, they may exercise their repair and deduct right.

What Are the Rights and Responsibilities That the Tenant Must Comply With?

Rights

Tenants have the legal right to request information regarding the storage of their security deposit, receive receipts for every payment they make, and live in a habitable unit that complies with local and state-wide housing guidelines. A tenant may request a repair service from their landlord if there are any damages that exceed normal wear and tear. In these cases, the landlord must give the requested repair promptly.

Responsibilities

The tenant must give the landlord proper notice if they decide to request repairs for the unit. Aside from that, the tenant must ensure that the property is kept in good condition so that it complies with housing and state laws. Here is an overview of the general conditions that the tenant must comply with, according to the Washington state landlord-tenant law:

  • Keep the unit in good repair.
  • Not disturb any other neighbors or tenants.
  • Provide scheduled maintenance to utilities and fixtures.
  • Pay rent on time.

General Clauses - Washington Law

The Washington landlord-tenant act can be found in the Revised Code of Washington (Chapter 59.18). However, if you want a general overview of the Washington landlord-tenant laws, make sure to keep reading.

Rent Payments

A landlord may request rent payments in any form that they consider appropriate for their property. However, if the tenant decides to pay in cash, landlords must send them a receipt for that payment.

According to the Washington landlord-tenant act, there are no current rent control policies in any state, which means that the Washington landlord may charge any amount of rent they consider appropriate for their needs.

As for rent increases, landlords may raise rental prices if they want, but they must send a 30-day notice (one month) to the tenant. This notice must be sent in every instance of rental increases. However, in Seattle, the landlord may need to send a 60 days' notice before raising rent from 10% onwards.

Finally, landlord-tenant laws allow landlords to charge any kind of late fees they want, and there are no limitations as to the amount of those fees. However, bounced check fees are limited to $40 or the current value of the check.

Security Deposits

The security deposit amount may be agreed upon by the tenants and landlords. However, keep in mind that there is no limit for the amount a landlord can charge for the security deposit, according to the local law. Regardless of not having any limitations, most landlords tend to charge an amount equal to one month of rent.

There's an exception in the city of Seattle, where the security deposit amount may not be higher than one month s rent.

When the tenant decides to leave the rental unit, the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant leaving to comply with the law.

Keep in mind that Washington laws allow landlords to withhold a deposit partially to cover for any extreme damages to the property or breaches to the lease agreement.

If the landlord doesn't return the deposit to the tenant within the provided 21-day notice, the landlord may have to pay up to two times the amount of the deposit, as well as the attorney's fees for the tenant.

Lease Termination and Evictions

According to local landlord-tenant laws, tenants may terminate the lease agreement after it ends. However, they must send a particular written notice depending on the type of lease.

  • Week-to-Week Notice - Non-applicable.
  • Month-to-Month Notice - 20 days.
  • Quarter-to-Quarter Notice - 20 days.
  • Year-to-Year Notice - 20 days.

A tenant in Washington can also terminate the lease before it ends for any of the following reasons:

  • Active military duty.
  • Unacceptable living conditions.
  • Landlord harassment or domestic violence.

On the other hand, at-will tenants with a month-to-month lease have to provide 20 days of notice regardless of the circumstances.

As for the eviction process in Washington, the landlord can initiate an eviction process if one of the following conditions are met:

  • The tenant doesn't pay rent - The landlord must send a 14 days' notice to pay rent or quit.
  • The tenant violates the terms of the lease - The landlord can send a 10-day written notice to comply.
  • Tenant is seen involved in criminal activity - The landlord can send a three-day notice to quit.

See our full guide on the eviction process and laws for Washington.

eviction process and laws for Washington

Housing Discrimination in Washington

Every tenant in Washington is protected by the Washington Law Against Discrimination, meaning that the landlord cannot discriminate against their tenant based on their sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, familial status, etc. It's important to note that landlords may not retaliate against their tenants since it's illegal.

Additional Clauses in Washington

Landlords' Right to Entry

Some states require landlords to send advanced notice to their tenant before entering their property. In the case of Washington, the landlord must provide at least 24 hours of notice before entering the property, as long as the reason for entry is justified. However, if there's an emergency happening, the landlord can enter without permission.

Lock Changing in Washington

Victims of domestic violence may be able to request to have their locks changed for enhanced protection. Keep in mind that this is just in case of domestic violence or harassment; if the landlord changes the property locks unilaterally, they may face legal consequences.

Conclusion

By following the Washington landlord-tenant laws, you're ensuring a safer leasing environment for all the parties involved. Remember that the key to avoiding disputes is communicating with the other parties involved to understand their rights and terms for leasing a property.

If you need any more help with a rental case in Washington, make sure to seek legal assistance from a lawyer or a real estate manager.

FAQs

Does the landlord have to disclose information about where the deposit is being stored?

The tenant has the legal right to know where their deposit is being stored, so the landlord has to provide that information if it's requested.

Is the landlord obligated to inform the tenant about smoke detectors on the property?

Tenants have to provide regular maintenance to their smoke detectors, and it's the landlord's duty to notify them about this.

Does the landlord have to disclose information about lead based paint to the tenant?

If the rental unit was built before 1978, Washington laws require the landlord to provide information about lead paint concentrations in the area.

What are the landlord-tenant rights in Tacoma?

Tacoma's Tenant Rights Ordinance requires the landlord to provide 90 days of notice to their tenant if the property is getting demolished or modified.

Resources

  1. Revised Code of Washington - Residential Landlord-Tenant Act
  2. EPA's Pamphlet
David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his two children, he's writing articles here!