Understanding the basic landlord-tenant state laws is important. In Washington State, these laws can be found in the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Once landlords and tenants understand them, they should be able to deal with common legal questions and problems without a lawyer.
Here’s an Overview of the Landlord-Tenant Laws in Washington State
1. Washington Fair Housing Laws
In Washington, it’s illegal for a landlord to discriminate against tenants based on their characteristics. According to Fair Housing Laws, it’s considered discriminatory if a landlord bases their actions on a tenant’s:
- Marital status
- Familial status
- National origin
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Military status
2. Washington Lease Agreements
A lease is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant. Both parties must adhere to its terms. Besides specifics like amenities, renovations, and other apartment features, the lease agreement also contains such provisions as:
- Grounds for lease termination and eviction
- Roommate and guest policies
- The security deposit amount and what it covers
- The rent rate and payment schedule
- Repair policy and procedures
- The length of the tenancy
3. Security Deposits in Washington State
Most Washington landlords charge tenants a security deposit. The Washington state landlord-tenant law doesn’t set any limit as to the amount a landlord can charge. However, local laws may dictate the exact amount.
When requiring a deposit, a landlord must:
- Not charge a tenant for normal cleaning if he/she has paid a non-refundable cleaning fee
- Not designate a non-refundable fee as a deposit or include it in the deposit
- Return the deposit with an itemized accounting for any amount withheld within 14 days after a tenant vacates
- Place deposits in a trust account in Washington and give the tenant a receipt indicating its location
- Describe in the contract the conditions under which a deposit may be retained by the landlord
- Give a written rental agreement and provide an inspection checklist signed by both parties stating the condition and cleanliness of the premises.
4. Landlord Responsibilities in Washington State
Common landlord responsibilities in Washington State include:
- Provide adequate heat, water, and hot water for the unit.
- Provide garbage cans and make arrangements for waste removal, except for single-family residences.
- Maintain a dwelling in weather-tight condition.
- Maintain all heating, plumbing, electrical and other facilities.
- Provide the tenant with adequate keys and locks.
- Provide for the control of insects, rodents, and other pests, except when caused by the tenant.
- Keep common and shared areas clean and safe.
- Maintain all structural components.
- Maintain the premises to comply with all state and local statutes and codes that affect tenant’s health and safety.
It is illegal for a landlord to:
- Charge a potential tenant more than the actual cost of a background check.
- Retaliate against a tenant exercising their legal rights.
- Attempt to physically remove a tenant.
- Confiscate a tenant’s personal property.
- Lockout a tenant.
- Intentionally shut off a tenant’s utilities.
5. Tenant’s Responsibilities in Washington State
Common tenant responsibilities include:
- Making timely rent payments.
- Keeping smoke detectors in good working order.
- Providing the landlord with a key if the locks are changed.
- Leaving the premises in as good a condition as it was at the beginning of the tenancy.
- Properly disposing of all waste and eliminate pest infestation caused by the tenant.
- Keeping the premises clean.
- Abiding by the landlord rules as well as all state and local statutes.
- Properly using and operating all electrical, plumbing, heating, gas, and appliances supplied by the landlord.
The tenant shall not:
- Engage in or permit anyone else to engage in drug-related activity on the premises.
- Unreasonably withhold consent for the landlord to enter the premises.
- Allow nuisance on the premises.
- Permit family or guests to damage the premises.
- Negligently or intentionally damage the property or remove equipment from the rental unit.
6. Required Landlord Disclosures
Under Washington state landlord-tenant law, landlords must disclose the following information to tenants:
- Ownership: Tenants in Washington reserve the right to know who the landlord is. A landlord can provide this information either through the lease agreement or by posting it in a conspicuous place.
- Agents: Landlords who live out of state can designate a person who lives in the county to act as his or her agent. But if no person is designated as agent, then the person receiving the rental payments is assumed to be the agent.
- Lead paint: For buildings built before 1978, federal law requires that the landlord place a “Lead Warning Statement” in their lease.
- Mold: Landlords must provide their tenants with information about the health hazards associated with exposure to indoor mold and how it can be controlled.
7. Termination of Tenancy
For month-to-month tenancies, a lease can be terminated if either party gives the other a twenty-day notice. For fixed-term leases, the lease automatically ends at the expiry of the term. A notice isn’t necessary.
The landlord may, however, terminate the lease early because of the following reasons:
- The tenant is a member of the armed forces and receives reassignment or deployment orders.
- The tenant conducts illegal businesses or engages in drug-related activities.
- The tenant causes destruction of property or causes nuisance.
- The tenant fails to correct a violation of the rental agreement or lease.
- The tenant fails to pay the rent.
8. Tenant’s Right to Privacy in Washington State
The right to privacy is a very important one. In Washington State, all tenants have a legal right to privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their home. The following are laws governing a tenant’s right to privacy in Washington:
- The landlord must first give the tenant a two-day notice prior to entering the rental unit. The only exception is if there is an emergency, abandonment, or the landlord has a court order.
- The landlord must not harass the tenant or abuse their right of entry. Harassment may include entering the premises at odd times or excessively showing the premises to prospective tenants.
- The landlord shall be liable for a penalty of up to $100 for each subsequent violation if he/she continually harasses the tenant.
- The tenant must not unreasonably refuse the landlord access to the rental unit for the purposes of repairs and inspection.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. It isn’t intended to be used as a legal advice for your particular problem. Should you need more clarification, check Fair Housing Laws as well as seek professional help from a qualified Washington attorney.
If you require help with your rental property don’t hesitate to contact us here today!