As a tenant or a landlord, you need to make sure that you are aligned with the law regarding rental agreements, property responsibilities, and Washington state tenant rights. Landlord-tenant rules in Washington influence how this relationship should exist, what a landlord must do for the tenants, how a tenant must maintain the property, and what circumstances can arise in the event the landlord fails to comply with the law.
Washington landlord laws set the rules for the relationship between landlords and tenants. These laws determine how much a landlord can charge in rent, how much the security deposit can be and when it should be returned after a tenant vacates the property, what responsibilities the tenant has during his or her tenancy, and so on.
Ensure that your rental agreement clearly specifies that the rental unit is reserved for tenants and minor children only. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property — ideally, people whom you have screened and approved — and to limit the number of occupants. Read on to find out what else your rental agreement should include under Washington state rental laws.
Washington state landlord rights define the scope of the landlord’s rights and responsibilities relating to rental properties and tenants, as discussed in this section.
Landlords have a duty to make repairs and maintain their rental properties as soon as possible. Major problems, such as heating or plumbing issues, need to be handled within 24 hours. Landlords are required to provide advance notice to their tenants before they can enter the property. A landlord is permitted to enter without notice only in the case of an emergency, such as a serious water leak or a fire.
There are specific situations in which state law might require the landlord to provide 48 hours notice before entering the property, such as in the case of domestic violence, but a tenant can work out an agreement with the landlord to allow quicker access when the situation involves something like a serious plumbing issue.
Under landlord-tenant laws in Washington state, a landlord must maintain a property that satisfies basic habitability requirements. These requirements include:
Additionally, the rental property must be free from health hazards and dangers, such as:
Finally, the premises must have reasonable protection against intrusion from criminals.
There are also local laws, such as local building codes or housing codes, that dictate the standards for specific dwelling unit issues, such as electrical wiring, spacing between the bars on a porch, ventilation, light, the types of locks and keys required for the property, and carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Local fire departments, health departments, and housing authorities determine many of these requirements, including the penalties for any violations of basic landlord responsibilities.
When a tenant signs a lease agreement, the tenant is given exclusive use of the rental property. Therefore, the landlord does not have the right to enter that property except as defined by the terms of the rental agreement or state law.
As mentioned above, WA state landlord-tenant laws require a landlord to provide atleast 24 hours’ notice before entering the property, and the landlord typically cannot enter without good reason.
For example: A landlord has to provide 24-hours’ notice that he or she is entering the rental property to make repairs or to show the unit to prospective tenants once the current tenant provides notice of vacating the property.
States like Alabama and Arizona require 2 days’ notice, whereas Florida requires only 12 hours. In most states, however, only 24 hours notice is required.
A landlord is allowed to increase the rent based on state statutes. A landlord cannot indiscriminately or subjectively increase rent, especially as a form of retaliation. If a tenant has a valid lease agreement in place, the landlord cannot raise the rent until the end of the rental period unless there is language in the agreement that stipulates otherwise.
Assuming proper notice is provided, month-to-month lease agreements allow landlords to raise the rent, or change any part of the agreement at will. In most states, proper notice must be provided in written form through certified mail with at least 30 days’ notice.
In Washington, landlords are required to follow a variety of state tenant laws when renting out property to tenants. Detailed information about the landlord-tenant relationship and your rights and responsibilities as a landlord can be found in your lease or rental agreement. The rental agreement will also typically contain clauses governing the resolution of disputes, including whether a successful party in a lawsuit will recover attorney’s fees.
The following details relating to security deposit laws should be included in your Washington lease or rental agreement to avoid confusion or potential legal issues:
The dollar amount and use of the security deposit. Although Washington state landlord-tenant law does not limit the amount, most landlords find it impractical to charge more than one or two months’ worth of rent. In addition, landlords in Washington must provide tenants with a list of any pre-existing damages before collecting any deposit.
As a landlord, you must return the deposit to the tenant within 14 days after the tenant vacates the premises. In addition, you must explain any deductions from the deposit.
Washington landlords must place security deposits in a state or federally regulated depository and disclose the account location to tenants.
The landlord-tenant act in Washington state allows for tenant screening. Landlords must disclose quite a bit of information to applicants, including details about the screening process and, if applicable, the reason for rejection. Application fees are legal but cannot exceed a landlord’s actual costs. There are also federal tenant screening laws that apply to both tenants and landlords in the state.
Specific details about the rent should be included in your lease or rental agreement, such as:
In Washington, you cannot charge more than 12% interest and the cost of collection, not to exceed $40, or the face amount of the check, whichever is less, for bounced checks.
Your lease or rental agreement should clearly outline the repair and maintenance obligations of tenants (especially with security deposits), including:
According to federal law, landlords are required to disclose lead-based paint before tenants move in. Washington law also requires landlords to disclose fire protection and mold information to tenants.
A tenancy can be terminated for a variety of reasons, including non-payment of rent or a violation of a lease clause.
In a few states, it is lawful to terminate a lease without giving the tenant an opportunity to rectify a violation of the lease.
Visit the Washington Laws and Legal Information section of the Nolo website and find the link to your state laws. The Washington landlord-tenant laws can be found in Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Landlords and tenants in Washington have access to detailed clause-by-clause instructions included in these ready-to-use legal forms. As a landlord or a renter, you should familiarize yourself with renters’ rights in Washington State.
A landlord cannot discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. If you believe you are unlawfully being discriminated against and experienced landlord harassment, you can report it to the appropriate state body or file a lawsuit.