The Complete Guide on Landlord Tenant Laws - Washington State 
In the Evergreen State of Washington, landlords and tenants grapple with an intricate network of rental laws, often called landlord-tenant laws, that outline their rights and responsibilities, as well as shape their interactions. Comprehending and adhering to these regulations can be challenging, even for experienced rental owners and tenants.
To help navigate these laws, we've crafted this comprehensive guide to address crucial rental topics such as tenant screening, rent payments, lease agreements, evictions, and more. Whether you find yourself in the role of a landlord or a tenant, this guide will provide you with a thorough understanding of Washington's rental laws, as outlined under the Washington Residential Landlord Tenant Act, Chapt 59 (view here).
Landlords will uncover strategies to safeguard their rental properties and foster positive tenant relationships, while tenants will acquire the knowledge necessary to assert their rights.
Let's dive in!
Washington landlord tenant law fast facts
Washington landlord responsibilities and rights
Landlords in Washington have basic rights that allow them to manage their rental property protected from potential legal and financial challenges. A few of their main rights include:
- Charging and receiving on-time rent
- Collecting security deposits to cover unforeseen costs at the end of the lease term
- Pursuing a formal eviction if a tenant breaches the lease or fails to pay rent
Rental owners in Washington also have a handful of responsibilities to uphold that ensure a safe and smooth tenancy for renters. Their key duties are as follows:
- Providing tenants with a safe, habitable rental unit free of housing discrimination
- Making repairs within 20 days after receiving a written notice from tenants
- Returning a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days after the end of the lease
Washington tenant responsibilities and rights
Tenants in Washington have their own set of rights that protect their well-being and safety while residing in a rental property. Renters’ main rights include:
- Residing in a rental unit that meets the warranty of habitability
- Having repairs made in 20 days after providing the landlord with written notice
- Taking legal action such as suing if the landlord violates the lease agreement
Same as landlords, Washington renters have a range of responsibilities to uphold. These duties ensure the rental unit is maintained and the landlord goes financially unharmed. In addition to paying rent on time, Washington tenants must:
- Keep the unit clean and sanitary, including removing waste from the unit in a timely manner
- Use all fixtures as intended
- Maintain the smoke detector
- Not engage in any illegal behavior, including gang-related activities or illegal drug use
- Not be a nuisance to other renters or neighbors
- Not purposefully destroy or damage any part of the rental property
Washington landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle
Washington tenant screening and rental application laws
Wasington’s rental application and tenant screening laws are simple and straightforward. The state doesn’t limit how much a landlord may charge for a rental application fee. However, they cannot charge more than the equivalent of their out-of-pocket costs incurred from screening prospective tenants. Additionally, landlords cannot ask any questions on the rental application that could lead to discrimination based on characteristics outlined in federal or state regulations.
Washington landlords may run background checks including credit and rental history, evictions, and criminal records, among others, but they must first disclose the types of information that will be accessed through the screening, criteria that may result in denial, and if used, the credit or consumer agency’s information.
Washington rental agreement and lease termination laws
In general, Washington requires a lease or rental agreement to be in writing. This regulation pertains to leases 12 months or longer, and if landlords charge a security deposit or a non-refundable fee. However, it’s advised to always have a written rental agreement as it outlines the landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities.
In addition to mandatory disclosures, landlords must include the following information: the landlord’s name, address and phone number, the rent amount and due date, lease length, and description of the rental unit. Learn what other important information should be included in a lease agreement now.
To terminate a lease in Washington, tenants must provide a 20-day notice period if they have a week, monthly, or yearly lease. Week-to-week leases are not required to provide a specific notice period.
Washington tenants may terminate a fixed-term lease agreement early for the following legal reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Landlord harassment
- Uninhabitable unit
- Domestic violence
Washington security deposit laws
Washington state law allows landlords to collect a security deposit at the start of a lease to cover unforeseen costs that may arise at the end of the tenancy. Washington does not limit how much a landlord can charge for the deposit, but some cities and towns may have their own laws.
Landlords must provide a receipt for the security deposit and hold it in a financial institution. At the end of the lease, landlords must return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days, which was recently increased from 21 days. Landlords may make deductions from the security deposit for reasons including rental damage exceeding normal wear and tear, cleaning costs, and repair costs. However, the reasons must be listed in the lease.
If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for twice the amount of the security deposit plus court costs and attorney fees.
Washington rent laws
Washington does not have rent control laws and prohibits its cities and towns from creating their own rent regulations. Thus, landlords may charge any amount of rent and increase rent as often as they choose. However, they cannot increase rent during the lease term unless the lease agreement specifically allows for it. Landlords must provide a 60-day notice before increasing rent.
If tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are required to provide a 5-day grace period before charging a late fee. While there is no limit on how much a landlord may charge for a late fee, the fee must be reasonable.
Tenants are not allowed to withhold rent in Washington, even if the landlord breaches the warrant of habitability.
Washington repair and maintenance laws
Washington landlords are required to make repairs within 20 days after receiving written notice from tenants. If landlords fail to make repairs in a timely manner, renters can take several legal actions: sue for costs, file a court order to force the landlord to make repairs, and cancel the rental agreement. They can also utilize the “repair and deduct” remedy in which they make repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their following rent payment.
Washington notice of entry laws
Similar to other states, landlords in Washington can enter rentals for reasons including inspections, repairs and maintenance, and property showings. Except in the case of an emergency, landlords must provide 2 days of notice before entering an occupied rental. However, they only have to provide one day of notice to show the rental unit to a prospective tenant or buyer.
Washington eviction laws
In Washington, landlords are permitted to evict tenants for specific legal reasons. Depending on the reason for eviction, landlords must provide a notice period before the eviction can start. Here are the reasons for eviction and their corresponding notice periods:
- Unpaid rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent when due and after the 5-day grace period, the landlord may issue a 14-day notice to pay. If the tenant still does not pay the past-due rent, the landlord may move forward with the eviction process.
- Lease violation: If tenants violate the lease agreement, the landlord may issue a 10-day notice to comply that details how tenants can cure the issue. If the issue is not curable, including waste, illegal acts, nuisances on the property, and any unlawful business, the landlord may issue a 3-day notice to quit.
- Illegal acts: Illegal acts including illegal drug use, physical assault, gang-related activity, and unlawful use of firearms or weapons are grounds for immediate eviction. No notice period is required.
Washington landlord tenant laws continued
On top of addressing rental matters such as repairs and evictions, Washington’s state laws also cover topics including landlord retaliation and discrimination. Explore some of those regulations below.
Both state and federal laws protect tenants from housing discrimination in Washington. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Washington state law further protects renters based on the following characteristics:
- Sexual orientation and gender identity
- Marital status
- Public assistance status
- Veteran/military status
- HIV/hepatitis status
If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, such as by advertising that has a discriminatory preference or falsely claiming a rental unit is unavailable, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission.
Like in the majority of US states, it’s illegal for Washington landlords to retaliate against tenants for taking legal actions like reporting landlords to government authorities for health and safety violations. Raised rent, reduced services, and threatened eviction are all considered forms of retaliation.
Washington landlords must provide tenants with specific disclosures at the start of a lease period. The disclosures include:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords who own rental properties built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead-based paint.
- Authorized agent: Landlords and property managers must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Mold: Landlords must provide information approved by local health departments relating to mold in residential buildings, including how to prevent mold.
- Security deposits: If a landlord intends to collect a security deposit, they must disclose where the deposit is being held, the condition of the rental property, and any terms and conditions of the deposit.
- Voter registration packet: Landlords with properties located in Seattle must provide tenants with a voter registration packet.
- Fees: Any non-refundable fees, such as a late or pet fee, must be disclosed in the lease.
- Fire safety: Landlords must inform tenants of their responsibility to maintain smoke detectors in the unit. Additionally, they must inform tenants if the building has a fire sprinkler or fire alarm system, as well as whether the building has a smoking policy and what it is.
Small claims court
Washington's Small Claims Court handles disputes involving small amounts of money, allowing cases to be handled in an expedited and simplified manner without an attorney. The Small Claims Court in Washington will hear rental cases for less than $10,000. However, if the landlord or tenant is filing as a company, the limit is $5,000. The process takes approximately two to three months depending on the circumstances.
Summing up: Understanding Washington landlord tenant laws
Washington’s rental laws were created to provide a clear framework for landlords and tenants of their specific rights and responsibilities. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, rental owners and their counterparts can confidently navigate the entire rental process–leading to favorable outcomes. Landlords can protect their real estate investments, tenants can assert their rights when necessary, and both parties can work together to foster a positive landlord-tenant relationship. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Landlords, if you need help with collecting rent or creating a lease agreement, and tenants, if you are looking to boost your credit, Azibo has got you covered. Learn about all of the benefits of using our free rental software today!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.