Understanding the landlord-tenant laws in Washington State is important. In the state of Washington, these laws are pretty straightforward. If properly understood, both tenants and landlords should be able to solve many legal issues on their own.
At T-Square Properties, we specialize in providing property management services to Seattle and the surrounding areas. We are well-versed when it comes to the rental laws in Washington State. So to help, we’ve created an overview of the landlord-tenant laws to get you started.
Washington Small Claims Court
In a Small Claims 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 a Washington State small claims 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. A security deposit is any money a landlord takes from a tenant other than the advance payment of rent. Landlords mostly use it to cover property damage.
Here are the important security deposit laws to be familiar with in Washington State.
- A landlord is free to charge any reasonable amount of security deposit. There’s no cap on the maximum.
- 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 security deposit for excessive property damage, unpaid rent, and other lease violations.
- Landlords must provide the tenant with a security deposit receipt after collecting and depositing their security deposit.
- 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 security deposit once they move out.
- In Washington, a walk-through inspection isn’t required.
Washington State Fair Housing Rules
Renters 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 Law against Discrimination and Fair Housing Act govern Washington fair housing laws.
Fair housing laws prohibit the following actions:
- Retaliating against a resident or applicant because he/she has asserted fair housing rights or has been a witness in a fair housing 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 a rental unit or refusing to rent to someone because of their protected class.
Washington State Landlord-Tenant Laws on Landlord Retaliation
Retaliation against renters asserting their rights under the landlord-tenant law 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 State Domestic Violence Laws
According to Washington state laws, domestic violence is any criminal act committed by a “family or household member” against another. There are five basic categories of domestic violence: neglect, economic control, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and physical violence.
Examples of crimes associated with domestic violence include:
- False imprisonment
- Stalking or cyberstalking
- Violation of protection order
- Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence
- Property damage
- Criminal trespass
- Reckless endangerment
- Manslaughter or murder
Felony domestic violence 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 Rental Property 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 a rental unit. 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 State rental law states that the notice must contain a telephone address which the renter can use to reach the landlord in case of any objections or a reschedule. The notice must also specify exact dates and time for entry.
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
- 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
Washington State Eviction Rules
Renters in Washington can be evicted for various reasons, including nonpayment of rent, lease violation, and property damage. To evict a renter, landlords must follow the right legal procedure.
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 State 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.
Washington State Lease Agreement
A Washington State 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 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. You should also learn about the state law regarding squatters, should you come across them in your property.