This is a summary of Washington Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the Revised Code of Washington, the  Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about Washington landlord-tenant laws, Washington eviction laws, and Washington renters’ rights. 

However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.  If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.

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Rules and Regulations Governing Washington Landlord-Tenant Laws

Washington Lease Terms Provisions


Security Deposits

  • What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
    There is no Washington law limiting security deposits.
  • Are security deposits required to earn interest?

No. As long as there is no contrary agreement in writing, the landlord is free to earn interest on the deposit for themselves. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.270)

  • Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account? 

Yes. The bank account must be created to hold such deposits in a licensed financial institution or escrow account. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.270)

  • Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?

No. But any non-refundable fee must be clearly specified in a written agreement. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.285)

  • How long do landlords have to return security deposits?

21 days. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.280)

  • Can landlords withhold security deposits?

Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover accrued rent and to repair any damages beyond ordinary wear and tear. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.280)

  • Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?

Yes. It must be a full and specific statement giving on what basis the deductions were made. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.280)

  • Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?

Yes. It must include the name and address of the bank or escrow account depository the deposit is placed in. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.270)

  • Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?

No. There is no Washington law specifying record-keeping requirements.

  • What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?

A landlord forfeits the right to the deposit, plus any claim of action arising from the deposit if they withhold the deposit beyond 21 days. A court may also order the landlord to pay double the deposit, plus costs and attorney’s fees. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.280)

Rent

  • Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)

No. There are no rent control laws in Washington.

  • When is rent due?

There is no statute covering this matter in Washington.

  • Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?

No. There is no Washington law requiring a certain payment method for rent.

Fees

  • Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?

Yes. There is no Washington law forbidding late fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

  • Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?

No. There is no Washington law requiring a grace period before assessing late fees.

  • Can landlords charge application fees?

Yes. There is no Washington law forbidding application fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

  • Can landlords charge returned check fees?

Yes. Landlords can charge a returned check fee up to $40. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 562A.3-515)

Washington Landlord-Tenant Relations

Notices

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?

Yes. For month-to-month leases, 30 days written notice of any increase is required. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.150)

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?

No. There is no Washington law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.

  • What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?

No notice is required — the lease ends on the date stated in the lease. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.04.030)

  • What notice is required to terminate a week-to-week periodic tenancy?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 20 days’ written notice unless the tenant is a member of the armed forces who receives a change of station, in which case shorter notice can be given. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.200)

  • What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic tenancy?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 20 days’ written notice unless the tenant is a member of the armed forces who receives a change of station, in which case shorter notice can be given. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.200)

  • Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?

There is no statute in Washington law covering this issue. 

Entry Provisions

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice?
    • To inspect the premises. 
    • To make necessary or agreed to repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements.
    • To supply necessary or agreed services. 
    • To show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors.  (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.150(1))
  • What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?

The landlord must provide written notice of the intended time and purpose of the entry at least 2 days in advance. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.150(6))

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants? 

Landlord’s Duties (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.060)

  • Landlords must comply with applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition.
  • Landlords must keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
  • Landlords must provide a reasonable pest control program.
  • Landlords must maintain in good and safe working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.
  • Landlords must provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of garbage and arrange for their removal, except for single-family dwellings.
  • Landlords must supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat.
  • Landlords provide and maintain locks and furnish keys reasonably adequate to ensure safety to the tenant’s person and property if requested by the tenant.
  • Landlords must provide smoke detection devices and carbon monoxide detection devices. 
  • Landlords must provide tenants with information from the health department concerning the hazards associated with indoor mold.

Tenant’s Duties (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.130)

  • Tenants must comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Tenants must keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permits.
  • Tenants must dispose of all ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste cleanly and safely.
  • Tenants must use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises in a reasonable manner;
  • Tenants must not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises; or knowingly, recklessly, or negligently permit any person to do so.
  • Tenants and their guests must not permit a nuisance or common waste.
  • Tenants shall maintain smoke detection devices and carbon monoxide detection devices.
  • Tenants may not engage in drug or gang-related activity.
  • Tenants may not engage in activity that: is imminently hazardous, entails physical assault, or entails the unlawful use of a firearm or other weapon.
  • Tenants must restore the premises to their initial condition upon the end of their tenancy, except for ordinary wear and tear.

Required Landlord Disclosures

  • 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.

Washington Renters’ Rights

  • What are Washington renters’ rights if landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)
    • If the landlord fails to carry out their statutory duties, the tenant must notify the landlord of the breach and notify the landlord of an estimated cost of licensed repair for the breach. If the landlord does not remedy the breach in a reasonable time after notice, the tenant can have a licensed contractor effect repairs, and deduct the amount from their rent, provided it does not exceed 2 months’ rent. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.100)
  • Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?
    • Yes. If a landlord fails to uphold their duties in a way that substantially endangers or impairs the health or safety of a tenant, the tenant can withhold rent by depositing it in an escrow account, if a government inspector certifies the breach impairs health or safety. The tenant must provide notice and reasonable time for the landlord to remedy before summoning a government inspection. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.115)
  • What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their Washington renter’s rights?

Washington law prohibits landlords from, within 90 days, increasing rent, decreasing services, increasing the obligations of a tenant, or bringing an action for possession if the tenant has complained to a governmental agency about the landlord or dwelling or asserted their rights as a tenant. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.240)

Washington Eviction Laws

  • What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under Washington eviction laws? (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.030)
    • Nonpayment of rent 
    • Violation of lease terms / rental agreement 
    • The tenant remains in possession without the landlord’s consent after expiration or termination of the term of the rental agreement (holdover tenancy) 
    • Permits waste or carries on an unlawful business.
    • Squatting
    • Gang-related activity.
  • What notice do Washington eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
    • For evictions based on non-payment of rent, a 14-day notice to pay must be posted before beginning an eviction action, during which a tenant can cure their failure to pay.  (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.030(3))
  • For evictions based on the violation of lease terms, a 10-day notice to comply must be posted before beginning an eviction action, during which a tenant can cure their violation.  (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.030(4))
  • Do Washington eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities? 

No. If a landlord evicts or attempts to evict a tenant using self-help methods, the tenant can choose to recover possession or terminate the lease. Tenants can recover costs and attorney’s fees in these actions, as well as up to $100 per day for unlawful utility shut-offs. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.290); (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.300)

  • Are landlords permitted to recover damages from an evicted tenant?

Yes. In an eviction action, the prevailing party can recover costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. (Wash. Rev. Co. § 59.18.290)

COVID-19 Changes to Washington Landlord-Tenant Laws

  • The CDC has passed a national eviction ban through December 31, 2020, that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants  who meet the following criteria for nonpayment:
    • Have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent.
    • Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
    • Are unable to pay their full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of income or employment, or extraordinary medical bills.
    • If evicted, will have no other housing options.
  • The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to tenants before eviction. However, the CARES Act only applies to properties that are supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the United States Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit), and properties with federally-backed mortgages, such as FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.
  • Washington has issued an eviction moratorium through December 31, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Links

Government

Legal Aid

Attorney Referral Services

Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations

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