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 » During Your Tenancy

Seattle Laws

Just Cause Eviction Protection permalink

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

The City of Seattle offers renters some modest additional protections than in other parts of Washington State. These laws apply to all residential tenancies in the Seattle city limits. If you’re unsure whether your unit is located in the city limits of Seattle, you can look it up on the King County Parcel Viewer. The property report lists each address within a specific jurisdiction: City of Seattle, unincorporated King County, etc. Different laws in Seattle are regulated by different city departments: some are enforced by the Seattle Police Department, and some by the Department of Planning and Development, or DPD. If you’d like more information on enforcement of landlord-tenant laws in the city of Seattle, the DPD can be reached at 206-615-0808.

Read more on "Just Cause Eviction Protection" »

Rental Housing Inspection permalink

The Department of Planning and Development, or DPD, has Code Enforcement inspectors that will come out to ensure that residential units are in compliance with local building codes. Typically Code Enforcement will want you to first go through the initial repair process of notifying the landlord in writing of the need for a repair and to wait the appropriate timeframe (see Repairs for details). The city may be able to impose fines on the landlord, or otherwise penalize the landlord for code violations. Be sure to ask for a copy of their report as this documentation can be very helpful.

Read more on "Rental Housing Inspection" »

Rental Agreement Regulation permalink

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

1) 60 days’ notice is required for all housing cost increases of 10% or more in a 12-month period for all Seattle tenants. The Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance, or RARO, requires that Seattle landlords give tenants 60 days written notice of any increase in housing costs of 10% or more in a 12 month period. Housing costs include rent and any other monthly or periodic fees for other services that the tenant pays the landlord, but do not include usage-based utility charges.

Read more on "Rental Agreement Regulation" »

Seattle Utility Billing permalink

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

All city of Seattle tenants living in buildings with three or more units are covered 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 the rental units. The landlord is billed for utility usage based on the entire building’s charges or master meter, and then divides the bill up and sends it to individual units. Tenants are charged based on the divided total bill, rather than their individual utility usage. Sometimes landlords use billing companies to divide and calculate the bills for each unit. These companies may be based outside of the state, but they still must conform to third party billing rules for all units located in the city of Seattle. It is legal for landlords to bill tenants for utilities, and to use out of state billing companies, but they must conform to the obligations set out in the third party billing ordinance. The ordinance requires landlord and billing agencies to disclose detailed information to tenants about their bills and to be transparent about their billing practices.

Read more on "Seattle Utility Billing" »

Housing & Building Maintenance permalink

The Seattle Housing and Building and Maintenance Codes establish further requirements for landlords and tenants in the city limits. It also sets minimum standards for providing adequate heating in rented housing units. Seattle tenants can report code violations to the DPD and they will send inspectors out to take a look at the problem and follow up with the landlord. The DPD Landlord Complaint Line phone number is 206-615-0808, or you can file a report online at Filing A Complaint.

Read more on "Housing & Building Maintenance" »

Fair Housing in Seattle permalink

Read more on "Fair Housing in Seattle" »

Tenant Relocation Assistance permalink

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

The Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance was passed in 1990, and requires landlords to pay relocation money to low-income Seattle 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. Owners who fail to seek a relocation permit are not allowed to begin an eviction action against the tenants. 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.

Read more on "Tenant Relocation Assistance" »

Right to Organize permalink

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

Under the Seattle Housing and Building and Maintenance Codes, Seattle landlords are prohibited from preventing or discriminating against tenants who are organizing in their buildings. Organizing activities include passing out and posting flyers and information to your neighbors and in common areas, creating connection with your neighbors and inviting them to get involved, and holding meetings that are unattended by management or agents of the landlord in the building. If the landlord takes any undue negative action against a tenant who has participated in one of these organizing activities, it is automatically assumed to be retaliation and is illegal. If you would like more information, or want to report retaliation by your landlord for organizing in your building, contact the Department of Planning and Development at 206-615-0808, or you can file a report online at Filing A Complaint.

Seattle Noise Laws permalink

Seattle noise laws are enforced by the Seattle Police Department. Seattle laws regulate “residential disturbances” and “unreasonable noise” in the city limits. For more information, see Seattle Police Department: Avoiding Noise. You can call the non-emergency Seattle police number at 206-625-5011 to report noise violations, but it can be very difficult to get police response, especially on weekend nights. Generally, the police will just issue a verbal warning to the household making excessive noise, but they can make a residential disturbance a criminal offense after repeated violations. They may also charge a fine, or contact the property owner after more than one offense.

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) also regulates outdoor construction and installation noises. See the DPD’s Noise Abatement Program for further information.

Condo Conversion permalink

TU Victory! The Seattle condo conversion law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

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.

Read more on "Condo Conversion" »

Seattle Tenant Resources permalink

Read more on "Seattle Tenant Resources" »