Landlords are responsible to make all repairs in the unit except in cases where tenants or invitees of the tenant cause the damage. Tenants may also be liable for repairs that are the result of unreported issues in the apartment if those issues cause further damage in the unit. State law outlines landlords’ obligations to keep your unit safe and livable. Landlords must also maintain their units to comply with all local codes that govern housing quality. Landlords must also provide adequate heat and hot water, provide adequate locks, maintain all structural components in reasonably good repair, and more. Read RCW 59.18.060 for a complete list of landlord duties.
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In this section
- Repair Process
- En español
- Utility Best Practices
- Termination of Tenancy
- Just Cause Eviction Protection
- Before Vacating
- Community Resources
- Legal Assistance for Tenants
- Types of Rental Agreements
- Eviction Essentials
- Servicios para inquilinos en la Unión de Inquilinos
- Termination of Tenancy
- Rental Housing Inspection
- Seattle Utility Billing
- Deposit Best Practices
- Steps to Request a Repair
- Deposit Questions
- Fair Housing Resources
- Rule Changes & Rent Increases
- Rental Agreement Regulation
- Eviction Process
- Hagase un miembro
- Deposit Negotiation
- Legal Resources
- Relocation Assistance
- Breaking A Lease
- Eviction Timeline
- Mejores prácticas y consejos para inquilinos
- Seattle Utility Billing
- Rental Agreement Questions
- Mold & Indoor Air Quality
- Last Month’s Rent
- Rental Assistance Resources
- Búsqueda de vivienda
- Landlord Illegal Acts
- Manufactured Housing Resources
- Pest Infestations
- Housing & Building Maintenance
- Deposit Resources
- Restricted Language in Rental Agreements
- Fair Housing in Seattle
- Low Income Housing Eviction
- Repair Resources
- Rental Agreement Resources
- Code Enforcement
- Eviction Resources
- Contratos de arrendamiento
- Tenant Relocation Assistance
- Protecting Your Privacy
- Dispute Resolution
- Rental Assistance Resources
- Tribunales de menor cuantía
- Right to Organize
- Privacy Resources
- Seattle Noise Laws
- Desocupación y desalojo
- Resolving Conflicts with Neighbors
- Documenting Communications
- Condo Conversion
- Negotiation Process
- Locating Your Landlord
- Discriminación en la vivienda
- Testing again
- Resolving Conflicts with Roommates
- Violencia doméstica y sus derechos
- Living with Your Landlord
- Chinese / 中文
- Recursos para inquilinos
- Roommate & Neighbor Resources
- Russian / Pусский
- Spanish / Español
- Somali / Soomaali
- Vietnamese / Tiếng Việt
- Tenant Screening
- Housing Search Questions
- Low Income Housing Search
- Housing Search Resources
- Types of Housing Subsidies
- Section 8 Vouchers
- Low Income Public Housing
- Low Income Public Housing
- HUD Subsidized Housing
- Tax Credit Properties
- Subsidized Housing Resources
- Foreclosure Facts
- Foreclosure Resources
- Domestic Violence Resources
- Fair Housing
- Tenants Union Disclaimer
- Understanding Landlord-Tenant Laws
- Tools for Tenants
- Best Practices and Tips for Tenants
- Credit Reports
- Collection Agencies
- How to Use Small Claims Court
- Repairs FAQ
Before using this information, please read:
To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
Know Your Rights » »
RCW 59.18.130 outlines a tenant’s responsibilities under landlord-tenant law. Tenants must keep their units clean and sanitary, dispose of garbage from inside their units, properly use the facilities and appliances supplied by the landlord, maintain smoke detectors batteries and more. Tenants also must not damage the property or allow guests to damage the property. Tenants can be held responsible for damages caused by them or visitors invited to the property. A tenant cannot be legally charged for damages caused by the landlord’s negligence or for damage resulting from normal wear and tear in the unit. See our Deposits webpage for more details.
There are no specific legal standards pertaining to the cost of repairing damages. Tenants may have the opportunity to make the repairs themselves, with permission from the landlord, and depending on the type and extent of the damage as well as the terms of the lease. The tenant may also be able to negotiate with the landlord to have the repairs made. Generally speaking, a landlord can charge for the cost of materials, the cost of hiring a contractor, or the fair cost of labor comparable to regional rates if the landlord made the repair themselves.
When you vacate a unit, it is always a best practice to thoroughly document the unit before you move out. Otherwise tenants leave themselves open to be charged exorbitant fees or charged for damages that they were not responsible for. Protect yourself with documentation!
No. Tenants must be current in rent in order to access the repair remedies written into the law. Even if the repairs are extremely severe, withholding rent can leave renters vulnerable to eviction.
My landlord began to make a repair within the legal timeframe, but they have still not fixed the problem after a considerable amount of time. Can I still break my lease even though they started repairs?
RCW 59.18.090 states the tenant does have the right to break the lease after the appropriate timeframe expires starting from when the landlord received a written repair request and the repair still goes on uncompleted within a reasonable time. However, there are some risks associated with this remedy, and it is a good idea to consult with an attorney before taking any action. Reasonable is not defined in the Landlord-Tenant Act. If possible, document the landlord’s attempt to repair if it is inadequate to fix the problem. Tenants may have a stronger case to break the lease based on the severity of the need for repair. For example, having no hot water or heat may have a different standard of reasonableness than replacing a cabinet.
I can’t live in my unit because a pipe burst causing a flood. Is my landlord required to put me up in a motel or move me to another unit?
While state law does not specifically require landlords to move tenants to another unit or pay for motel stays, tenants have the right to ask these things of the landlord and negotiate to get them. Tenants can argue that they don’t have the obligation to pay rent for a unit during a time that they’re not able to live there or get full use of the unit. If the landlord disagrees and still asks for full rent, tenants still need to pay rent, but they can document financial and other damages caused because of the flooding (for instance, having to pay for a motel room, driving costs, or other financial damages). You can negotiate with your landlord for these things or take them to Small Claims Court to sue for compensation after the fact. Remember to always put it in writing! See Steps to Request a Repair for tools you can use to negotiate with your landlord.
My apartment flooded due to a faulty plumbing and all my belongings were damaged. Is the landlord responsible to pay for the cost?
State law does not specifically require this, but tenants have an argument that the landlord can be held liable for property damage. If the tenant has documentation that they had previously communicated with the landlord about the problem and the landlord took no action to fix it, the argument would be stronger. If the tenant has not communicated with the landlord about the problem, then the tenant can argue that the landlord should have known about the problem. Other tenants in the building may have had similar problems and would be willing to testify or provide written statements. Communicating with other tenants is invaluable. This is another reason why it is helpful for tenants to hold on to copies of all of their repair requests. Landlords cannot be held liable for property damage resulting from a repair problem unless they knew or should have known about the problem. It is also a good idea for renters to get renters’ insurance that will cover the cost of any property damages.
I can’t live in my unit because the mold is impacting my health. Can I legally break my lease because of this?
Other than a requirement to provide written information (RCW 59.18.060), there are no state laws governing landlords’ responsibilities regarding mold removal. State law does give residential tenants the right to vacate their units and move if the landlord is not making necessary repairs. It will depend on whether the landlord attempts to fix the problem causing the mold to grow. The mold itself may not be cause enough to break the lease, but if the landlord fails to fix the leaky pipe causing the moisture that created the mold growth, then the tenant can follow the repair process to eventually break the lease. Thorough documentation is vital if you’d like to use this legal remedy, and there are some risks associated with this course of action. See Repair Process above and Tenants’ Repair Remedies for details. Disabled tenants may also make reasonable accommodation requests to make the unit livable or to be allowed to vacate. To learn more about protections for disabled tenants and how to make a reasonable accommodation request, see Fair Housing & Disability Laws.
If you’ve tried all the resources available to you and exhausted your legal remedies, you may consider seeking legal help and assistance. See the “Legal Assistance Guide’:/rights/section/legal-assistance-guide for more information.
In general, landlord-tenant laws do not cover cosmetic upgrades to units. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to request upgrades to the property. It is important that you not make any changes to the unit, even if you believe they will improve the property, without getting written permission from your landlord to do so. Keep in mind that any changes you make to the unit, even ones you consider improvements, could be considered damages by the landlord when you move out of the unit. If there is a repair problem with the carpeting or countertops to the extent that they are not useable, a tenant can ask the landlord to make the repairs through the Steps to Request a Repair above.
Washington State law does not set out any specific timeframes for landlords to replace carpet or repaint the walls. If there is a repair problem with the carpeting or walls to the extent that there is significant damage, a tenant can ask the landlord to make the repairs through the Steps to Request a Repair above.
My landlord says that they don’t have to make repairs in my unit because my rent is so cheap. Is this legal?
All tenants deserve to live in safe and decent housing, regardless of how much rent they pay. The legal standards to make repairs are the same for all residential tenants.
I signed a lease stating that I have to make all the repairs in my unit, and that I have to accept the unit “as is.” Can my landlord hold me to this?
RCW 59.18.230 states that tenants cannot sign away their rights under the law. The landlord is still responsible for making all repairs for defective conditions that are not caused by the tenant or guests of the tenant. If the lease provision waives a duty that is defined under the law as the landlord’s responsibility, that section is legally unenforceable. For example, if a tenant moves into a unit with no working heat, even if the lease says the tenant is responsible for repairs, state law still requires the landlord to maintain appropriate heating for the unit.
My toilet clogs regularly. We had to call a plumber out, and my landlord is charging me the cost of the repair, saying that I use too much toilet paper. Is this legal?
In this situation, the landlord is arguing that the tenant is responsible for the damages that require a costly repair. Unless the tenant has damaged the toilet by flushing things that cause clogs, the tenant has an argument that they were using the facility within normal use and that they are not responsible for the cost of the repair. The tenant can provide documentation in the form of prior repair requests or a report from the plumber clarifying the nature of the plumbing problem. If the move-in checklist indicates that the toilet was working fine when you moved in, it may be difficult to prove that the problems with the toilet were not caused by the tenant.
I injured myself because the landlord didn’t make repairs on my unit. Can I hold my landlord liable for the costs of my medical bills?
You may be able to take your landlord to court to sue for the costs of your medical bills. It is important to have documentation of the repair problems and your landlord’s negligence in fixing them. Seek legal advice from an attorney for a specific situation. Tenants have often found it helpful to consult with an attorney regarding health problems that result from mold.
Currently, a prospective landlord may choose to take a copy of a credit report if the tenant provides one from one of the three major credit reporting agencies, but the law does not require them to do so. Solid Ground is working with our partners to pass legislation that would lower application costs by requiring landlords to accept credit reports from tenants if they can be verified with the credit reporting agency.
You can petition credit reporting agencies to have any errors removed from your record. This can be a difficult process. For detailed information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s How to Dispute Credit Report Errors.
Yes. If you want to move an additional tenant in mid-tenancy, the landlord has the right to put them through the screening process and charge them the application fee.
I have a family member or partner who lives elsewhere, but will be staying over regularly in my unit. What are my rights?
Review the guest policy in your rental agreement. Often rental agreements limit the specific number of days, consecutive or total, a guest can stay in the unit without being screened and added to the contract. The landlord may ask that a frequent visitor be screened and have their name added to the rental agreement if they exceed the number of days allowed for visitors.
I’m concerned that my former landlord will misrepresent my rental history to a new potential landlord and give me a bad reference. What can I do?
If you are concerned that a former landlord may misrepresent or lie about your qualifications as a tenant, you can give the new landlord an explanation of the situation, or bring additional references. There are no laws in the Landlord-Tenant Act that restrict what information a landlord gives about you as a part of the screening process. You may decide to bring references from other former landlords or employers and other character references. In situations like this, many tenants wonder if there is a way to sue their landlord for defamation (slander or libel). It may be possible to bring a private action against them in court, but it can be very difficult to secure an attorney for a lawsuit like this. For more information on how to best utilize legal services to solve housing problems, see the tenant Legal Assistance Guide.
If I won in eviction court, or was evicted illegally, can the eviction be used against me in the screening process?
Yes, even if you were evicted illegally, or won in eviction court, it will still show up in your record as an eviction and may be used against you in the screening process. You can go to the courthouse and print out the court’s judgment that stated that you prevailed, or other documentation that the action was brought against you illegally. The new landlord may be willing to consider the extenuating circumstances.
Can the landlord ask me my social security number or bank account numbers on the rental application?
Yes. As long as landlords are not collecting information in a discriminatory manner, there are no laws restricting what information is asked of you on a rental application. You may ask why the landlord wants the information and what they are going to do with it. They must have a legitimate business reason for requesting the information. It is at a landlord’s discretion to choose not to offer a unit to you if you do not provide the information requested, but sometimes landlords will be flexible if you have concerns.
IRS regulations specify that projects financed through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program are not required to collect social security numbers from potential residents. However, LIHTC projects still ask for social security numbers on applications and use them to determine applicants’ financial eligibility and suitability as tenants. Equivalent identification would be a Work Visa, Alien Registration Receipt Card, Temporary Resident Card, IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or Employment Authorization Card. Failure on the part of applicants to provide social security numbers or equivalent identification could hinder or delay an LIHTC property’s ability to review their applications for housing.
Yes. The landlord must provide a copy of the rental agreement to each tenant that signs it. The tenant may request one free replacement copy during the tenancy.
Am I still covered under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act even though I don’t have a written rental agreement?
Verbal tenancies are legal in Washington State and are considered valid month-to-month agreements.
Types of tenancies that are not covered by Landlord-Tenant Act are commercial leases or manufactured home owners who rent space in a manufactured home park. RCW 59.18.040 outlines the other living arrangements exempt from coverage under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act: people in medical, religious, educational, recreational or correctional institutions; people in contracts to purchase their homes; people staying in hotels or motels; migrant workers whose housing is provided by their employers; and people whose residence depends upon their employment.
No. Rent control is illegal in Washington State, as stated in RCW 35.21.830. However, Seattle tenants are entitled to 60 days’ notice before rent increases of 10% or more in a 12-month period per SMC 7.24.030. And tenants living outside of Seattle are entitled to a written notice of a rent increase 30 days before the end of the rental period. In addition, rent increases cannot be discriminatory or retaliatory.
Always look at the actual unit you’re going to be renting before agreeing to sign a lease. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to be removed from the lease if the unit isn’t right for you. If you break your lease and move, you may still be held liable for the monetary penalties written into the law and/or your lease. If the unit you’re renting has repair problems, your landlord has the obligation to fix them. See Repairs for more information.
They showed me a “model unit” and then I saw the actual unit I’m renting, and it’s a total disaster zone! What can I do? Can I sue them for false advertising?
Always look at the actual unit you’re going to be renting before agreeing to sign a rental agreement. If the unit you’re renting has repair problems, your landlord has the obligation to fix them. See Repairs for more details. It may be possible for you to file a lawsuit against your landlord for false advertising, but legal assistance for this kind of lawsuit can be difficult to come by. See Legal Assistance Guide for more information.
I just signed a lease and then changed my mind about living there. Is there a grace period in Washington State that allows me to back out of a contract within 24 hours of signing it?
There is no grace period in Washington State. Once you sign a lease you are committed to fulfilling its terms unless the landlord agrees to release you from it. If they do agree to release you from your rental agreement, be sure to get it in writing and signed by your landlord.
Some tenants will try to find a replacement renter to move into the unit and sign a new lease with the landlord. That would entail having your landlord screen the other person and having them sign a new lease, which would require the landlord’s consent.
The landlord cannot enforce any rules of a rental agreement that infringe on or wave your rights as a tenant under any federal, state or local law. “RCW 59.18.230”: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18.230 lays out tenants’ rights in regards to rental agreements. You cannot sign away your rights under the law. For example, if a rental contract requires that the tenants be responsible for all repairs needed in the unit, regardless of whether or not they caused the damages, that specific provision of the contract is not enforceable. The rest of the contract, however, is still valid and enforceable. In addition, RCW 59.18.140 states that tenants must conform to all reasonable rules and restrictions placed by the landlord. You may be able to argue that certain rules are unreasonable, and thus unenforceable.
While traditionally due on the first of the month, rent can be due any day of the month. The day that rent is due will be determined in your rental agreement or in a verbal contract with your landlord. Sometimes landlords will agree to accept partial payments in increments throughout the month, or to accept payments weekly. It is a good idea to solidify these kinds of agreements in writing with your landlord.
There is no law that requires landlords to prorate rent when a tenant moves in or vacates a unit. Often, landlords will prorate tenants’ first days or weeks in the unit in order to collect full rent on the first of the following month. Landlords are not legally obligated to prorate the rent when you vacate, even if you don’t stay through the end of the month. If you are vacating in the middle of the month, you may be able to negotiate with your landlord to prorate your rent based on your move out date. Under RCW 59.18.200, state law requires you to give 20 days’ notice to vacate in writing if your lease does not end at its term. Be sure to do so or the landlord may charge you the following month.
RCW 59.18.230 states that tenants cannot sign away their rights under the law. The landlord cannot legally enforce any terms of the lease that violate any state or local laws. For instance, the landlord is still responsible for making all repairs for defective conditions that are not caused by the tenant, or guests of the tenant, even if the tenant signs a lease stating that they agree to make all repairs necessary during their tenancy. The inclusion of a clause that violates other tenant protection laws does not make the entire lease invalid. However, those clauses that do conflict with state law are not enforceable.
Two-year leases are only valid if they are notarized. If the lease is not notarized, it becomes a month-to-month tenancy.
I broke my lease and moved out. Can my landlord charge me for the remainder of the rent due under the lease?
RCW 59.18.310 states that the landlord can continue to charge you rent until the unit is re-rented, and that they can charge you for advertising costs. If they end up having to rent the unit at less than what your lease required you to pay, they can collect the difference for the full term of the lease. They have to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit after you vacate.
Some tenants will try to find a replacement renter to take over their lease. That would entail having your landlord screen the other person and having them sign a new lease. This would have to be with the landlord’s consent.
What if the landlord isn’t making a reasonable effort to re-rent my unit after I’ve broken my lease and moved out?
With documentation, you may be able to negotiate with the landlord to avoid paying a portion of repayment if you can establish that the landlord isn’t making a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit after you’ve vacated. You may be able to recover some of the rent money you pay in small claims court after the fact, or to directly negotiate with the landlord to get the rent charges reduced or eliminated. Some landlords will work with tenants to get assistance finding new renters.
If I moved out without giving proper notice, can the landlord both keep my entire deposit and charge me for the following month’s rent?
Generally, the landlord cannot require you to forfeit your entire security deposit. The rental agreement cannot include a provision that automatically forfeits a security deposit for a violation of the rental agreement. (Keep in mind that a lease that ends at its term, such as a one-year lease, does not require either party to give notice.) Many times a lease will state the tenant waives a refund of their deposit if they fail to give the proper 20-day termination notice when they vacate the unit. This language may be an illegal waiver of your rights under the landlord tenant act. Under RCW 59.18.230(2), the law prohibits a lease to include language that could waive those rights.
If a tenant is on a lease and terminates early or without proper notice, the tenant will likely be liable for the rent for the remainder of the rental period or until the unit is re-rented, whichever comes first. The landlord has a duty to make a good faith effort to re-rent the unit, but beyond that, there are no specific requirements for the effort the landlord must put into re-renting the unit.
It depends on what’s written in the lease. It is not uncommon to see termination fees included in rental agreements. However, RCW 59.18.310 allows the landlord to mitigate the damages caused when the tenant broke their lease. They can continue to charge the tenant rent until the unit is re-rented, as described above, or they may decide to deduct the lost rent from the tenant’s deposit. The law does not allow landlords to charge tenants penalties above and beyond the mitigation of damages for loss of rent due to a tenant’s breaking the lease.
The lease, as well as your security deposit and all other money held by the landlord, should be passed to the new landlord. RCW 59.18.060 requires that the tenant shall be immediately notified in writing of any changes to the landlord either by personal service, or conspicuously posted and sent first class mail. No terms of the lease can be changed except by mutual agreement, and the lease must be honored through the entire term unless the property is foreclosed on during the lease term, and the new purchaser wishes to occupy the home as their primary residence. RCW 59.18.270 dictates the terms of the deposit changeover.
Tenants do not have to agree to changes to any aspect of a fixed-term lease unless they want to. The landlord can take no valid legal action against you if you do not agree to sign a lease addendum. However, the landlord could decide not to renew your lease at the end of its term if you do not sign. It’s a good idea to seek legal assistance regarding lease addendums if you are unsure.
Look to the specific terms of the rental agreement to find out whether it automatically reverts to a month-to-month tenancy. Many leases automatically roll over into a month-to-month tenancy but must say so in the lease language. If the lease does not have specific month-to-month language then RCW 59.18.220 states that the tenancy ends at the end of the lease term. If your lease states that your tenancy ends, you are required to vacate at the end of the lease period. You may ask to stay longer by communicating with your landlord in writing or asking to sign a new lease. If the landlord accepts the rent for the following month after the term of your original lease ends, then you have established a month-to-month tenancy.
It is still a good idea to give your landlord 20 days’ notice even if your lease is ending. You must give 20 days’ notice if your lease automatically becomes a month-to-month tenancy following the fixed-term period.
If your landlord gave you notice of a rent increase in the middle of the month, the rent increase will go into effect the first of the month following the 30- or 60-day notice period. A tenant paying a rent increase without 30-days’ notice may indicate to the landlord their agreement to accept the increase without the proper written notice.
A tenant can send the landlord a letter informing them of the improper notice and a copy of the law. See Sample Letter: Improper Rent Increase or Rule Change (PDF) . If your landlord does not acknowledge their legal obligations to provide proper notice and instead serves you a 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, a tenant can pay the rent increase by writing on their check “payment under protest.” The tenant can then pursue the difference owed from the improper rent increase in small claims court.
Some tenants will choose not to pay the increase at all and just pay their regular amount. The risk is that the tenant could end up in eviction court for nonpayment of rent after service of the 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, and may not necessarily win in court. This can be a risky choice, because whenever a landlord files an eviction lawsuit against a tenant, it creates a permanent record of eviction regardless if the tenant wins.
A sublease is a rental agreement (fixed-term or month-to-month) between tenants. For example, a tenant who has a lease with the owner to rent a house may decide they want to rent out rooms to another tenant. A contract is drawn up between the original tenant and the new one, and the new tenant pays their rent to the original tenant instead of the landlord. Most rental agreements prohibit subleases. The original tenant is responsible to the landlord for any damages caused by the subletor.
I am a month-to-month tenant. How much notice am I required to give my landlord before I vacate my unit?
The law requires that month-to-month tenants give landlords at least 20 days written notice before vacating their units. If you are unsure about what kind of rental agreement you have, see more details in Rental Agreements. The landlord must receive written notice of your move-out date 20 days before the end of the rental period. For example, if your rent is due on the first of the month, and you plan to vacate by 30th, then the landlord must receive your written notice by the 10th of the month. Be sure to get proof that you sent your notice to vacate by sending it certified mail and regular first class mail and keeping a copy for your records. If you do not give your landlord proper 20 days written notice, or if you stay longer than the date you gave notice for, your landlord can charge you for the following month’s rent.
If your rental agreement states that your rent is due on an irregular day of the month, such as the 15th, just count 20 days backward from that date to determine that day of the month that your notice must be received by the landlord. The 20-day period is calculated from the day that your rent is due, not including any grace period you may be allowed before your rent is considered late.
Tenants on fixed term leases, such as a 6-month or one year lease, are committed to living in the unit for the full lease period. Look to your rental agreement to see what the notice terms are. If there are no specific notice terms dictated there, RCW 59.18.220 states that the tenancy ends when the lease ends. It is still a best practice to always give your landlord some notice before you move out to let them know what your plans are. Read detailed information on breaking your lease at Rental Agreements. The landlord may claim that you are still in possession of the property if you still hold the keys after the termination date, and may charge you for the following month’s rent.
What happens if I stay in my unit past the day I gave notice I’d be out, or if I vacate in the middle of the month?
If you can, try and get your landlord’s written permission to stay longer. If you stay past the day that you give notice to vacate, even for a day, your landlord can legally charge you rent for the entire following month. Some landlords will agree to prorate the rent if you want to stay a few extra days, or if you move out sometime in the middle of the month, but they are not legally obligated to do so. There is no law requiring that landlords prorate the rent for days or partial months that tenants occupy the unit. If you do need to stay past your notice date, it’s a good idea to get a written agreement with your landlord stating the number of days you’ll be staying, and agreeing upon the amount you’ll be charged for those days. If you move in the middle of the month, be sure to still provide a 20 day notice of move out for the following month in order to avoid being charged a full month of rent when you no longer live there.
Some landlords may agree to prorate your rent when you vacate, but they are not legally required to do so. If you vacate in the middle of the month, your landlord may legally charge you for the entire month’s rent. If you want to move out in the middle of the month, it’s a good idea to try and get a written agreement with your landlord stating the number of days you’ll be staying, and agreeing upon the amount you’ll be charged for those days.
I’m a month-to-month tenant. What happens if I only gave 18 days’ notice to vacate, or only gave my landlord verbal notice that I was vacating the unit?
If you do not give your landlord proper 20 days written notice, according to RCW 59.18.310, your landlord can charge you for the following month’s rent. If the landlord re-rents the unit right away, you could make the argument that the landlord doesn’t have the right to collect rent from more than one tenant on the same unit in the same month.
Yes. 20 days’ notice is the minimum requirement. The notice must be in writing.
Your 20 days written notice constitutes a commitment to the landlord that you will vacate the unit, but you may be able to negotiate with your landlord to allow you to stay longer in the unit. The landlord does not have to provide you with any extra time past the notice date, and can charge you rent for the following month if you overstay, or start eviction procedures. RCW 58.12.030 states that you would become a “holdover tenant” who has stayed beyond the end of your rental agreement. For more information, see Eviction.
RCW 59.18.230 that tenants cannot sign away their legal rights under the landlord-tenant act in a rental agreement. Your contract may require 30 days’ notice or more, but it may be arguable that tenants can only be held to the 20 days notice legally required under state law in RCW 59.18.200. You may decide to give more notice, but only 20 days is required under the law. Though tenants do have an argument that the landlord does not have the legal right to require they give 30 days’ notice to vacate, you may not want to take the risk that your landlord will try to charge you for the following months’ rent. It may be best to give 30 days’ notice anyway, if possible, to avoid the chance that your landlord charges you rent for the following month and sends you to collections or Small Claims Court. Speak to an attorney for additional information and advice on your specific situation.
If I’m on a lease, do I still have to give 20 days’ notice to vacate? What about at the end of the lease?
RCW 59.18.220 states that the tenancy ends when the lease ends, unless the contract specifically rolls it over into a month-to-month tenancy, or the landlord offers the tenant a new rental agreement. Look at your lease for any specific notice provision that you may have agreed to. If your lease automatically becomes a month-to-month tenancy, you must give your landlord 20 days written notice before you vacate. It is still a good idea to give your landlord written notice that you are moving out. Tenants on leases are committed to stay in the unit for the full term. If you break your lease, it is still a good idea to give your landlord written notice that you are vacating the unit before the end of the contract term. For more information on breaking your lease, see Rental Agreements.
Be sure to notify the post office of your forwarding address. If you don’t have a secure new address, you can provide the address of a reliable friend or relative. Your landlord is obligated under RCW 59.18.280 to send your deposit statement within 14 days to your last known address or deliver it to you personally. If you do not provide them with a new address, they may end up sending it to the unit you just vacated, and will not reach you unless you have your mail forwarded. This can be a problem for tenants because the landlord may have complied with their obligations by mailing the deposit accounting to the last known address, but the tenant never received it and assumes the landlord failed to deliver the refund statement. This might impact the tenant’s ability to argue the landlord failed to deliver the refund statement within the required 14 days. See Deposits for more information.
What condition do I have to leave my unit in when I vacate? What can I be charged for after I move out?
RCW 59.18.130 requires that tenants return the unit to the condition they found it in when the moved in, minus normal wear and tear. There is no further legal definition of normal wear and tear in the Landlord-Tenant Act. There may also be some requirements outlined in your rental agreement. It’s a good idea to get documentation of the condition you leave the unit in, and get documentation of any steps you take to clean or repair the unit. Tenants can be charged for any damages they caused to the unit above normal wear and tear. For more information, see Deposits.
What can I do if my landlord requires cleaning before I vacate that I believe is above and beyond my legal obligation?
Your landlord can only enforce rules and conditions of tenancy that are established in your rental agreement. If your contract required you do professionally clean carpets or blinds, then you agreed to those terms of the tenancy and can be held to those commitments. However, RCW 59.18.140 states that the tenant must conform to all reasonable rules and restrictions laid out by the landlord in the rental agreement. If the rental agreement calls for clean-up of the unit that may be considered unreasonable, like that the tenant must have the unit professionally cleaned by three different cleaning companies, the tenant may be able to argue that the rule is unreasonable. Otherwise, the law requires tenants to return the unit to the condition it was in when they moved in, minus normal wear and tear. If your landlord requires extra cleaning that was not agreed upon in the rental agreement, it is up to you to decide how to respond. While your landlord may not ultimately be able to enforce those requirements legally, they may still attempt to charge you for not doing those things after you move out, or may take those costs out of your deposit. See Deposits for further information and ideas on how to handle those charges or negotiate with your landlord to avoid extra charges.
The Landlord-Tenant Act does not require that your landlord do a walk out inspection with you, though you certainly can ask them to do one. It’s a good idea to get thorough documentation of the condition you leave the unit in, even if your landlord won’t inspect the unit before you move out. They are required to complete a move-in checklist with the tenant at the initiation of tenancy. One way to get documentation is to take detailed photographs of the unit before you leave. Putting a copy of the day’s newspaper in each frame will prove the date it was taken (Small Claims Court judges may not accept camera date stamps because they can be tampered with).
RCW 59.18.280 states that the landlord has 14 days from the time the rental agreement ends and the tenant vacates the unit to postmark the return of the deposit or a written statement detailing why portions of the deposit were withheld. The correspondence must be postmarked by the 14th day. The landlord must send the letter or deposit check to the forwarding address you provided them or to your last known address (usually the property you just vacated). If they do not return the deposit money or a statement detailing why it is being withheld within that timeframe, they have waived their right to keep the deposit.
The law says that a small claims judge may order a landlord to pay up to double the deposit amount if they intentionally refused to provide the written statement or deposit. This is why it’s important to keep documentation that you notified them of your forwarding address. The forwarding address can be to your new home or the address of a trusted family member or friend.
Yes. The ability for a landlord to charge damages is a completely separate legal issue from whether the landlord appropriately handled the deposit. Regardless of the status of the deposit, the landlord is legally entitled to pursue a tenant for damages (either actual or unfounded claims). The landlord may decide to pursue this matter in Small Claims Court, hire an attorney, or refer the matter to a collection agency.
More often than not a landlord will send you to collections for debts not covered by the deposit. If the collection action proceeds, this will greatly harm your credit and limit your future housing and employment opportunities. Other landlords can use your credit record as a determining factor in whether or not to rent to you. If you disagree with the amount owed, always write a letter of dispute to the collections agency. Send the letter within the first 30 days you hear from the collection agency in order to preserve all your legal rights. It is important that you do not ignore collection notices. Please see Disputing a Debt with a Collection Agency or Washington LawHelp’s Debtors’ Rights: Dealing with Collection Agencies.
Can the landlord require me to have the carpets professionally cleaned before I move out? Can the landlord legally charge me for carpet cleaning or repainting the walls when I move out?
Take a look at the lease to see what specific requirements, if any, the landlord requires upon move-out. If you signed a lease agreeing to professionally clean the carpets, you may be charged for it if you don’t comply. If the lease doesn’t have specific requirements, it defaults to the state law, RCW 59.18.130 which requires renters to return the unit to the condition it was in upon move-in, minus normal wear and tear.
The landlord may charge for carpet cleaning or painting if there are damages caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear. Providing documentation of the condition of the unit may be useful in the case that the tenant and landlord disagree whether the damages were normal wear and tear or caused by the tenant.
Landlords regularly collect security, damage and pet deposits. Some landlords also collect deposits to hold a unit for a prospective tenant. Landlords must provide a written agreement that states the amount, terms and conditions under which this money is refundable.
A security deposit is a deposit to secure fulfillment of all the terms of a lease. A damage deposit can be used to cover the cost of physical damages to the unit caused by the tenants or guests of the tenants, and may also be used to cover any monetary damages against your landlord as a result of the tenancy, such as unpaid back rent. Look to the written rental agreement to see exactly how your landlord intends to use the deposit money you paid when you moved into the unit. RCW 59.18.260 states that the rental agreement must specifically state the terms and conditions under which the deposit money is refundable, and the landlord can only deduct money in accordance with those terms and state laws.
If I moved out without giving proper notice, can the landlord both keep my entire deposit and charge me for the following month’s rent?
Generally, the landlord cannot require you to forfeit your entire security deposit. The rental agreement cannot include a provision that automatically forfeits a security deposit for a violation of the rental agreement. (Keep in mind that a lease that ends at its term, such as a one-year lease, does not require either party to give notice.) Many times a lease will state the tenant waives a refund of their deposit if they fail to give the proper 20-day termination notice when they vacate the unit. This language may be an illegal waiver of your rights under the landlord tenant act. Under RCW 59.18.230(2) law prohibits a lease to include language that could waive those rights.
If a tenant is on a lease and terminates early or without proper notice, the tenant will likely be liable for the rent for the remainder of the rental period or until the unit is re-rented, whichever comes first. The landlord has a duty to make a good faith effort to re-rent the unit, but beyond that, there are no specific requirements for the effort the landlord must put into re-renting the unit.
What if my landlord didn’t give me a written rental agreement, or didn’t do a move-in checklist with me?
RCW 59.18.260 requires that in order to collect deposits from tenants, landlords must put the rental agreement in writing and include the terms and conditions under which the money is refundable. It also requires that the landlord provide a written statement detailing the condition of the unit upon move in. If the landlord collects a deposit without providing the written checklist to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord is liable to the tenant for the amount of the deposit. You can negotiate with your landlord or pursue a small claim lawsuit against them to recover your money if it is not refunded to you after you move out. If the landlord does not provide you with a written rental agreement at the commencement of tenancy, and does not return your deposit after you vacate, you may be able to argue that your deposit has been withheld illegally.
There are currently no state laws restricting the kind of fees a landlord can charge a tenant upon move-in, nor is there any limit on how much those fees can be. Look to your rental agreement to see what kind of fees the landlord charges. However, RCW 59.18.140 requires that tenants follow all rules of tenancy that are reasonable. You may be able to argue that excessive fees are beyond what is reasonable for a landlord to charge. For instance, an excessive fee might be $100-a-day late fees, or a $300 monthly fee to rent a washer and dryer. In general, if you have the option, do not sign a rental agreement that has any terms or conditions that you are unwilling or unable to conform to. It is much more difficult to argue against a rule of tenancy once you are committed in a lease.
If the landlord charges you any kind of fee during your tenancy without a written lease, the landlord is liable for the amount of any fees collected as non-refundable. If the written rental agreement does not state that a fee is “non-refundable”, the fee is to be treated as a refundable deposit (RCW 59.18.285).
RCW 59.18.285 says that fees must be specifically designated as non-refundable and cannot be considered deposits. Under the law, deposits are by nature refundable. If your landlord declares a portion of the deposit as nonrefundable upon move-in, or does not specifically designate a fee as non-refundable in the rental agreement, the fee is to be treated as a refundable deposit. In addition, if the landlord charges you non-refundable fees and does not provide you with a written rental agreement, the landlord is liable for the return of those non-refundable fees.
Does my landlord have to show me receipts for damage repairs deducted from my deposit or charged to me?
While there is no law specifically requiring that the landlord show receipts for contractors’ fees or parts for repairs that were deducted from your deposit, tenants still have the right to ask. However, the landlord must provide a tenant with a specific statement that itemizes what the deposit money was used for under RCW 59.18.280. The statement cannot be a general lump sum, or simply state “no refund.”
There is no legal standard for normal wear and tear. Tenants can argue that wear and tear will be greater over time, and that it includes all normal uses of the premises. Again, documenting preexisting damages and taking pictures after moving out is the best practice to distinguish wear and tear from damage. See Guide to Damages and Normal Wear and Tear for more information.
If the landlord gave me a written lease, a complete move-in checklist, and a specific written statement within 14 days, does this prevent me from requesting my deposit back or disputing the charges?
No. You may still negotiate with your landlord and pursue small claims court for the return of your deposit. Some common reasons why tenants ask for their deposits back are: the damages were preexisting, the damages were not caused by tenants or tenants’ guests, the charges are unreasonably high (see above question example), or the damage is actually normal wear and tear.
The landlord may charge you for damages costing more than the amount of your deposit. RCW 59.18.060 says that a landlord cannot be held responsible to cover the costs of damages caused by tenants or their guests. You may contest these charges if the damages were preexisting or were not caused by you or your guests. Tenants may still pursue the return of their deposit if the landlord did not get a written response to them within 14 days, or if the landlord did not perform a written checklist upon move-in. The law does not prohibit a landlord from pursuing damage charges. See Washington Law Help’s Debtors’ Rights: Dealing with Collection Agencies document for more information on how to dispute a debt from a landlord.
If the statement is specifically itemized but the deductions seem very high, a tenant can call local contractors and try to get estimates for those types of repairs. For example, if the written statement from your landlord charges you $500 for a broken light switch, the tenant can try to get something in writing from local electricians stating whether that is a reasonable charge for rates in the area.
My landlord sent me a check returning only a portion of my deposit. Should I cash it if I believe that I am still owed more of the deposit back?
While cashing a deposit refund check does not explicitly waive your rights to continue to dispute the landlord’s use of the remainder of your deposit, it may be a good idea to say so in a letter to the landlord before you cash the check. You may also write on the check, “Cashing of check does not waive claim for additional amounts due.” In the case that the landlord writes “Cashing of this check constitutes full satisfaction and/or waiver of all actual or potential claims” or a similar phrase on the check, you can cross out this language and write in language similar to above. Ultimately, it would be ideal for you to wait to cash the check, though it may not have any legal impact.
RCW 59.18.270 requires that the landlord must put all security or damage deposit money into a trust account, a bank or licensed escrow agent in Washington state. The landlord must provide the tenant with a written receipt for the deposit and the name and address of the depository, as well as inform the tenant of any change to the depository.
No. The landlord gets to keep all interest garnered from deposit money unless otherwise agreed upon, as detailed in RCW 59.18.270.
In RCW 59.18.270, landlords are required to transfer deposit money to the new landlord. That landlord must then provide the tenants with the name, address and location of the financial institution where the money is being held.
If the property goes into foreclosure and is sold at an auction the old owner must refund the deposit back to the tenant, or transfer the deposit to the new owner of the property. If the old owner fails to do either they can be liable to the tenant for twice the amount of the deposit, court or arbitration costs, and attorney’s fees.
Your landlord may agree to apply your deposit towards your rent, but it is very uncommon and they are not legally obligated to do so. Usually the landlord will want to use your deposit for possible damages to the unit first, and then begin an eviction action against you to compel you to pay the rent. If that doesn’t work and you move out, the landlord may use it for back rent if your lease states this is a valid use of a security deposit.
When I moved in, I paid last month’s rent, but my rent was raised over time. Now I’m about to vacate the unit, and the landlord is asking me to pay the difference between the two. Is that legal?
Last month’s rent payments do appreciate in value over time, and the landlord does have the right to collect the difference. Let’s say you moved into a unit 10 years ago and paid $500 for your last month’s rent. If the rent had been raised over time to be $650 a month by the time you moved out, your landlord could charge you the difference in the last month you live in the unit.
It depends. The landlord must send a written accounting of how they used the deposit money within 14 days after the landlord learns of your abandonment of the unit. Look to the lease to see the specific terms and conditions under which the deposit is refundable. The landlord can generally use the deposit towards any unpaid rent or any damages the tenant causes to the unit during their tenancy. RCW 59.18.310 allows the landlord only to mitigate the damages caused when the tenant broke their lease. Damages include any lost rent and the cost of advertising the unit for re-rental. If your landlord tries to charge you more than their actual damages, or continues to charge you rent in addition to taking your deposit or charging you a termination fee, you could argue that the landlord is attempting to penalize you. The law does not allow landlords to penalize tenants above and beyond the mitigation of damages for loss of rent due to a tenant’s breaking the lease. However, it is unclear how the courts will interpret this law. Speak to an attorney for more information and advice on your specific situation.
The King County Parcel Viewer is a research tool that offers detailed information on all properties in King County. The property report lists each address within a specific jurisdiction. It will designate whether or not your rental is in Seattle city limits. Find the property by address, then click on the “Get Districts Report” link. See Locating Your Landlord for more information.
Yes. The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, or JCEO, requires that Seattle landlords have just cause reasons to terminate tenancy or evict month-to-month or other periodic tenants (tenants who pay rent weekly or twice a month). There are 18 total just causes listed in the ordinance. Just causes for eviction include nonpayment of rent, noncompliance with lease terms, chronically late rent payments, and the intention of the landlord to occupy the unit themselves or rent the unit to an immediate family member. The notice required for each just cause reason varies. Outside of city limits, there is no just cause protection for tenants, and landlords can ask tenants not on a term lease to vacate with only 20 days’ written notice.
The landlord cannot use just cause evictions in retaliation for a tenant asserting their rights under landlord-tenant law or calling code enforcement. Seattle tenants experiencing retaliation can contact the DPD at 206-615-0808. This does not include tenants on leases, whose tenancy ends when the lease ends unless otherwise stated in the lease.
JCEO is enforced by the DPD, or Department of Planning and Development. They can be reached at 206-615-0808. Some Just Cause reasons allow tenants to pursue monetary damages if the landlord doesn’t follow them, up to $2000 in Small Claims Court. See Just Cause Eviction Ordinance (SMC 22.206.160) for more information, and Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws, a publication made by the DPD.
The landlord can require in a lease that the tenant vacate a unit at the end of the contract period, even in the City of Seattle. If your lease requires you to vacate at the end of the contract, you must do so unless the landlord agrees in writing to renew your lease or make you a month-to-month tenant. For more information, see Rental Agreements.
Why does Seattle have better protections for tenants than other parts of the state? How can we get just cause protection statewide?
Tenants and tenant advocates have worked to win additional protections for Seattle renters. Laws can be very difficult to change, housing advocates are working to win just cause and other protections for the entire state. Landlord lobbying groups are constantly working to expand the number of just cause reasons. Your elected officials need to know how renters are being impacted by rental laws in Washington State. Call the Washington State Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 and tell them your story. You can leave a message for your state Senator, two Representatives and the Governor. Also, you can find email addresses and information about upcoming bills that impact renters at the Washington State Legislature website.
What if my landlord gives me less than 60 days’ notice of a rent increase of 10% or more in a 12-month period?
If you have been given less than the required amount of notice, you can contest an improper rent increase. See our Sample Letter: Improper Rent Increase or Rule Change . Tenants can also file a complaint with the DPD, which has the authority to rescind an improper rent increase notice. If the landlord does not follow the requirement to provide a 60-day written notice for a rent increase of 10% or more, and instead serves a 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, the tenant can pay the rent increase by writing “payment under protest” on their check. The tenant can then pursue the difference owed from the improper rent increase in Small Claims Court. It would also be a good idea for the tenant to pursue legal help through the Housing Justice Project or Legal Action Center in Seattle. See the “Legal Assistance Guide’:/rights/section/legal-assistance-guide for renters for more information.
Some tenants will choose not to pay the increase at all and just pay their regular amount. The risk here is that the tenant could end up in eviction court for nonpayment of rent after service of the 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, and will have to explain to a judge or court commissioner why they think the rent increase is not appropriate. This can be a risky choice, because whenever a landlord files an eviction lawsuit against a tenant, it creates a permanent record of eviction even if the tenant wins the court case.
What is third party billing? What are my landlord’s responsibilities under the third party billing ordinance?
Third party billing is when the landlord is billed by the utility company and then passes the cost on to the tenants living in three or more rental units. Landlords must inform tenants of any new billing practices. Each bill must include the name, address and phone number of the landlord or billing company, and must detail each item the tenant is being charged, including service and late fees. It must also include information on beginning and ending meter readings for sub-metered units, the due date and date late fees will be applied and past due balances. Statements must also detail a process for disputing billings, as well as an address for submitting disputes to the landlord or company. The ordinance also limits the amount of service charges, late fees and NSF check fees a landlord can collect per month. Utility bills for the building must be made available to tenants on the property for up to two years.
Tenants who think they are being incorrectly billed must send a notice to the landlord or billing agent (whoever is identified as the responsible entity) within 30 days of the billing in question. The billing agent or landlord must respond to the concern within 30 days. If no resolution can be reached with the landlord or agent, the tenant can file a complaint with the Seattle Office of the Hearing Examiner or opt to take the landlord to Small Claims Court.
The Relocation Assistance Ordinance requires landlords to pay relocation money to low-income tenants who are displaced from their units because of housing demolition, substantial rehabilitation, change of use or removal of restrictions placed on subsidized housing. Tenants are entitled to 90 days’ notice before they have to vacate the unit for one of these purposes. The owner must obtain permits in order to perform any of the actions listed above, and must first apply for tenant relocation licenses for residents impacted. Tenants are eligible for relocation assistance if their family income is less than 50% of area median income. The amount for relocation assistance changes from time to time, but can be up to $3,000. The landlord pays half and the city pays half.
30 days after the landlord submits an application for a tenant relocation license, the landlord must deliver a tenant relocation information packet to the tenant. Tenants must apply for relocation assistance within 30 days after the owner delivers them a relocation information packet. Tenants do not automatically get relocation assistance just because the landlord applied for a relocation license. They must take action to apply for the relocation assistance money. Call the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) at 206-615-0808.
The amount for relocation assistance changes from time to time, but can be up to $3,000. The landlord pays half and the city pays half. See Tenant Relocation Assistance for more details.
Both state and municipal laws govern condo conversions in the city of Seattle. State law entitles tenants to 120 days’ notice in the case of condo conversion, and gives renters the right of first refusal to purchase the unit. Seattle also has a relocation requirement for condominium conversions, and requires that landlords inform tenants of the relocation assistance in writing with 120 days’ notice. Households earning less than 80% of area median income will qualify for relocation assistance if they opt not to or cannot purchase and remain in their unit. Qualifying households will receive the equivalent of three months’ rent in relocation assistance. Elderly renters or people with disabilities may receive some additional funds to help with moving costs. The developer must pay this relocation assistance by the date the tenants vacate the units.
RCW 64.34.440(1)(b)’ also states the reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant during the 120-day notice period. During the notice period immediately preceding a condo conversion, tenants can be evicted for failing pay rent, causing a waste or nuisance on the property, or violating another tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the property, or any other reason listed in RCW 59.12.030, such as failure to comply with a 10-day notice to comply or vacate.
Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, landlords must give forty-eight hours written notice to enter your unit, or twenty-four hours’ notice if they are showing the unit to a new prospective tenant or purchaser (RCW 59.18.150).
Yes. RCW 59.18.150 also requires that tenants must make the unit available for entry when necessary for inspection or repairs. Tenants must make the unit available to the landlord within reasonable times as well. If the landlord’s entry time doesn’t work for you, it’s a good idea to document that in writing to the landlord and suggest alternate times that you can make the unit available.
Yes, the notice must be in writing and provide the specific dates and time ranges the landlord expects to be in the unit.
The law doesn’t specifically define reasonable times for the landlord to enter, but business hours (8 am – 6 pm) might be a good guideline to use. You can negotiate with your landlord to specifically define those hours together.
The Landlord-Tenant Act does not allow for tenants to require that they be present during landlord entry, but tenants certainly have the right to ask to be present for any and all inspections by the landlord. If you are not certain what the inspection will entail, and you have concerns about it, look at your rental agreement to see if it offers any details on the frequency and purpose of landlord inspections. Tenants can also ask the landlord questions and ask for more details before an inspection.
You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to come up with a day and time that works better for you. Tenants are required to allow the landlord entry to the unit within reasonable times. If the day and time that the landlord gave notice for doesn’t work for you, you may make the unit available for entry on alternate dates.
For what reasons can the landlord legally enter my unit? Does the landlord have to explain their reasons for entry to me?
The Landlord-Tenant Act allows landlords to enter units to make agreed upon repairs, perform maintenance and do inspections. Landlords may also enter your unit in case of an emergency or to address an urgent problem. Landlords cannot abuse their right of access to your unit or use it to harass you. Neither does the law require that landlords officially disclose their reasons for entry, but tenants may still ask for detailed explanations.
The law does not specifically say how often a landlord can enter a unit, but it does say that landlords cannot abuse their right of access or use it to harass the tenant.
Do the privacy laws include the landlord coming onto the rental property and not just inside the unit?
The Landlord-Tenant Act refers specifically to the dwelling unit, though other laws may pertain to this situation. It may be a good idea to document in writing all the different instances the landlord comes into the property or on the premises. Keep in mind that RCW 59.18.150 prohibits the landlord from using their right of access to harass you. Contact an attorney for legal assistance and guidance.
Tenants may refuse a landlord entry if they have not given proper legal notice to enter. RCW 59.18.150 also requires that tenants must make the unit available for entry when necessary for inspection or repairs. If your landlord violates your rights to privacy by entering the unit without giving the proper notice, you can send a letter to the landlord detailing the date and time of the alleged violation. Take a look at an Invasion of Privacy Sample Letter. It is always a good idea to send letters certified mail and first class mail, so you can prove that they were sent. Be sure and keep a copy of the letter for your records. Once the landlord receives this letter, you have the right to take the landlord to Small Claims Court to sue for up to $100 per subsequent violation of your notice rights. Likewise, the landlord can pursue the same remedy against the tenant if the tenant is unreasonably denying them access to the unit.