Understanding the Washington landlord-tenant laws, state and local laws is important. In the state of Washington, these laws are pretty straightforward. If properly understood, tenants and landlords should be able to solve many legal issues independently without any external service.

At T-Square Properties, we specialize in providing rental property management services to Seattle and the surrounding areas. We are well-versed when it comes to the rental laws in Washington. So to help, we’ve created an overview of those laws to get you started.

Washington Small Claims Court

In this court, a person may sue up to $5,000. Unlike in other courts, a dispute here could be resolved in a much shorter time, usually about half an hour.

Court procedures are quick, inexpensive, informal, and uncomplicated. In this kind of court, a lawyer isn’t necessary. In fact, they can only be present if the judge allows them.

Washington State Security Deposit Limit and Return

Most rental agreements and residential leases in Washington State require a security deposit. The deposit is any money a Washington landlord takes from a tenant other than the advance rental payment. Landlords mostly use it to cover property damage.

Here are the important laws to be familiar with in Washington State.

  • A landlord is free to charge any reasonable amount for security deposits. There’s no cap on the maximum adhered to monthly rent.
  • Washington landlords can charge tenants nonrefundable fees. To charge it, both the landlord and tenant must have a written rental agreement or lease.
  • A landlord may keep a tenant’s deposit for excessive property damage, unpaid rent, and other lease violations.
  • Landlord duties and responsibilities include providing the Washington tenant with a security deposit receipt after collecting and depositing it.
  • In case of property ownership, landlords must transfer all renter’s security deposits to the new owner.
  • The landlord has 14 days to return a tenant’s deposit once the tenant moves out and the tenancy ends.
  • In Washington, a walk-through inspection isn’t required.

Fair Housing Rules in the State of Washinton

washington landlord tenant law

Tenants in Washington are protected against discrimination because of their military/veteran status, marital status, sex/gender identity, religion/creed, national origin, color, race and familial status.

Washington Laws against Discrimination and Fair Housing Act govern Washington’s fair housing laws.

Fair housing laws prohibit the following act of housing discrimination:

  • Retaliating against a resident or applicant because he/she has asserted fair housing rights or has been a witness in a fair investigation.
  • Enforcing a neutral rule or policy that has a disproportionately adverse effect on a protected class.
  • Failing to meet access requirements, refusing to allow a disabled resident make reasonable changes, or failing to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled person.
  • Advertising in a way that indicates a preference for a certain class of people.
  • Fair housing laws also protect applicants and residents who live with people in protected groups.
  • Lying about the availability of rental properties or refusing to rent to a prospective tenant because of their protected class.

Washington Landlord-Tenant Laws on Landlord Retaliation

lease or rental agreement regulation ordinance

Retaliation against tenants asserting their rights under the landlord-tenant laws is prohibited under the landlord-tenant act. Acts that can be considered retaliatory include:

  • Making a renter’s stay unpleasant. For example, refusing to make repairs to a renter’s unit or restricting their access to a previous common washer and dryer.
  • Harassing the tenant.
  • Increasing the rent.
  • Failing to renew the tenant’s lease.

Washington Domestic Violence Laws

According to Washington residential landlord-tenant act and state law, domestic violence is any criminal act committed by a “family or household member” against another. There are five basic categories: neglect, economic control, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and physical violence.

Examples of crimes associated with this kind of violence include:

  • False imprisonment
  • Stalking or cyberstalking
  • Violation of protection order
  • Rape
  • Interfering with the reporting of violence
  • Kidnapping
  • Property damage
  • Criminal trespass
  • Burglary
  • Coercion
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Manslaughter or murder
  • Assault

Felony violence, that is domestic, offenses are punishable by more than one year in jail. Demeanors are punishable by up to three months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Landlord Rights to Access the Rental Premises in Washington

Tenants in Washington have a right to quiet enjoyment of their home. According to Washington state laws, landlords must give their tenants a 48-hours’ notice to enter the tenant’s property. This isn’t however necessary in case of emergencies. And if the landlord is showing the property to prospective tenants, then they must give a 24-hours’ notice.

The time of entry by the landlord must be reasonable. Washington rental laws states that the proper written notice must contain a telephone address which the tenant can use to reach the landlord in case of any objections or a reschedule. The tenant written notice must also specify exact dates and time for entry.

Washington landlords commonly enter a rental unit to:

  • Conduct unit inspections
  • Make repairs
  • Show the apartment
  • Provide services
  • Deliver large packages
  • Decorate, alter or improve the rental unit by repairs
  • Check for lease violations
  • Check if the tenant has violated safety or health codes
  • Under court orders, and
  • If the renter has abandoned the premises

Eviction Process in the State of Washington

Washington State tenants can be evicted for various reasons, including nonpayment of rent, rental agreement violation, and property damage. To evict renters, landlords must follow the right legal procedure of Washington eviction laws.

In Washington, self-evictions are illegal. Evictions can only be done through a court order. Otherwise, they would be illegal. An example of an act that’s illegal is the landlord changing the rental unit locks.

Depending on the reason for eviction, there are several different types of eviction notices in Washington that landlords can serve tenants. Common types of notices in Washington include:

Type of Notice

Reason for eviction

Three-day notice Nonpayment of rent
Ten-day notice Lease violation(s)
Three-day notice Nuisance or disturbance
Twenty-day notice Lease termination

See RCW 59.12.040 and RCW 59.12.030.

Although they vary, evictions in Washington State generally take about three weeks.

Lease Agreement in the State of Washinton

federal law requires landlords to rent habitable units

A lease agreement is a contractual agreement between a landlord and a tenant. It outlines the relationship’s terms, such as:

  • Which utilities are covered
  • Rules about pets
  • Rent amount
  • The length of the rental period or tenancy
  • Repair policy and procedures
  • Security deposit amount and what it covers
  • Roommate and guest policies, and so on

This overview of Washington State’s rental laws is only meant to be informational. For specific questions, please consult professional services. A landlord should also learn about the state law regarding squatters, and other local laws relating to renting out a property.

Rental Owner looking for Management Services? Start Here