Some basic information about the landlord-tenant law. Click the grey boxes below to expand and view the information.
- Rental Agreements and You
- All blank spaces in a written rental agreement must be filled in, and you must receive a signed copy.
- The agreement should indicate whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for paying specific utility bills.
Rental agreements remain in effect unless:
- the landlord or tenant violates the conditions of the agreement, and proper notice is given to either party by the other;
- both you and the landlord agree to end the agreement; or
- either you or the landlord gives the other party proper notice that the agreement will be terminated.
Your landlord cannot raise your rent, except:
- when the full term of any written rental agreement has expired;
- after providing you with at least one month advanced notice, in the case of a month-to-month agreement;
- when a written rental agreement specifically provides for increases in the amount of your rent
- General Matters
- You must pay the rent by the date it is due, and you have the right to obtain a receipt from the landlord.
- You can get back the balance of any refundable security deposit within 14 business days after your rental agreement with the landlord has been terminated. However, the landlord may deduct any rent or other reasonable charges (which must be itemized in a written statement) from your security deposit.
- Any redecorating or cleanup deposits that you pay are also returnable to you unless your rental agreement with the landlord states otherwise.
- Condition of the Premises
- You must keep the rental premises as clean and safe as the condition of the dwelling permits.
- You must dispose of all garbage, rubbish and other wastes in a clean and safe manner.
- You must keep all plumbing fixtures clean, and use appliances and other supplied utilities in a reasonable manner.
- You must allow the landlord to enter the rental premises for repairs/inspections at reasonable times, after the landlord has given you at least two days advance notice.
- In an emergency, the landlord can enter without your consent.
- Your Conduct
- You must not damage or destroy any part of the rental premises.
- You are responsible for the actions of your guests.
- You are entitled to privacy and peaceful use of the premises. You must not act in a way that disturbs neighbors.
- You must promptly return all keys to the landlord when you move out.
- You must be truthful about information concerning occupants, pets, income, employment or criminal history.
- Landlord's Right of Access
The landlord must give the tenant at least a two-day notice of his intent to enter at reasonable times. However, the law says that tenants must not unreasonably refuse to allow the landlord to enter the rental where the landlord has given at least one-day’s notice of intent to enter at a specified time to show the dwelling to prospective or actual purchasers or tenants.
- Any provision in a rental agreement which allows the landlord to enter without such notice is not valid under the law.
- The law says that tenants shall not unreasonably refuse the landlord access to repair, improve, or service the dwelling.
In case of an emergency, or if the property has been abandoned, the landlord can enter without notice. In all other cases, your landlord can enter with reasonable notice of no less than two days and only for a legitimate purpose, including to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs or alterations, or to show the apartment to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, etc. (RCW 59.08.150).
- Landlord's Responsibilities to Maintain Premises
Under the Washington State Landlord-Tenant Act, the landlord must:
- Maintain the dwelling so it does not violate state and local codes in ways which endanger the tenant’s health and safety.
- Maintain structural components, such as roofs, floors and chimneys, in reasonably good repair.
- Maintain the dwelling in reasonably weathertight condition.
- Provide reasonably adequate locks and keys.
- Provide the necessary facilities to supply heat, electricity and hot and cold water.
- Provide garbage cans and arrange for removal of garbage, except in single family dwellings.
- Keep common areas, such as lobbies, stairways and halls, reasonably clean and free from hazards.
- Control pests before the tenant moves in. The landlord must continue to control infestations except in single family dwellings, or when the infestation was caused by the tenant.
- Make repairs to keep the unit in the same condition as when the tenant moved in (except for normal wear and tear).
- Keep electrical, plumbing and heating systems in good repair, and maintain any appliances which are provided with the rental.
- Inform the tenant of the name and address of the landlord or landlord’s agent.
- Set water heaters at 120° when a new tenant moves in.
- Provide smoke detectors, and ensure they work properly when a new tenant moves in. (Tenants are responsible for maintaining detectors.)
- Investigate whether a tenant is engaging in gang-related activity when another tenant notifies the landlord of gang-related activity by serving a written notice and investigation demand to the landlord. (See RCW 59.18.180 for details)
A landlord is not responsible for the cost of correcting problems which were caused by the tenant.
- Self-help for Minor Defects
RCW 59.18.100 provides a self help remedy for minor defects, in which the cost can be deducted from rent under limitations. You may deduct the cost of repair from the rent if the reasonable cost of repair or compliance is no more than one month’s rent per each repair, and no more than two months rent in any 12 month period. If you want to pursue self-help, you must do the following:
Notify the landlord in writing of your intention to correct the problem—at the landlord’s expense with a good faith estimate for the cost of the repairs, who then has 10 days (or as promptly as conditions require if it’s an emergency) to correct the problem.
After giving notice, the tenant must wait the required time for the landlord to begin making repairs. Those required waiting times are:
- 24 hours for no hot or cold water, heat, or electricity, or for a condition which is imminently hazardous to life
- 72 hours for repair of refrigerator, range and oven, or a major plumbing fixture supplied by landlord
10 days for all other repairs
If the landlord does not correct the problem, you may have the work done by a licensed contractor. You must then submit to the landlord an itemized statement of the contractor’s charges and a waiver of the contractor’s lien. You may then deduct the amount you paid from your next month’s rent.
Example: You rent an apartment for $400 a month. The pipes under the kitchen sink start leaking, and you know from experience that your landlord is very slow to fix such things. You call a plumber, who is a licensed contractor, and find out that it will cost $75 to $100 to fix the leak. You may deliver to your landlord written notice that unless the leak is fixed in ten days, you will pay to have it fixed and deduct the amount from your rent.
- Termination of the Rental Agreement
Another provision of the Washington State Landlord/Tenant Act, RCW 59.18.90, allows a tenant to terminate the rental agreement if the landlord fails to remedy a defective condition within a reasonable time. Since by law, all of the provisions of the Landlord/Tenant Act are considered part of the rental agreement, this includes the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the premises as described above. In order to terminate the rental agreement you must do the following:
- Ending the Rental Relationship
No disputes about rent being due:
- If you are renting month-to-month, you must provide the landlord with written notice—at least 30 days before your next payment would be due—that you will be terminating the rental agreement.
- If you are renting for a longer period you still may be required to provide the landlord with written notice of your intent to terminate the rental agreement. Carefully read the terms of any agreement.
If you have fallen behind in your rent payments:
- If the tenant is even one day behind in rent, the landlord can issue a three day notice to pay or move out. If the tenant pays all the rent due within three days, the landlord must accept it and cannot evict the tenant. A landlord is not required to accept a partial payment.
- If, after your landlord files suit against you, but before a judge issues a ruling, you pay the rent, late charges, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, you also can stay in the rental dwelling. Your landlord cannot force you to move out unless a judge grants an order for your eviction (called a Writ of Restitution), and the order is served on you (usually by a sheriff or constable).
- If your landlord accepts a partial payment of the rent you owe, the landlord still may have the right to evict you unless you have a written agreement that allows you to stay.
When a landlord wants a tenant to move out, certain procedures must be followed. This section discusses why landlords can evict tenants, and what methods must be used.
There are four types of evictions under the law, each requiring a certain type of notice: For not paying rent.
For not complying with the terms of the rental agreement: If a tenant is not complying with the rental agreement (for example, keeping a cat when the agreement specifies “no pets”), the landlord can give a ten-day notice to comply or move out. If the tenant remedies the situation within that time, the landlord cannot continue the eviction process.
For creating a “waste or nuisance”: If a tenant destroys the landlord’s property; uses the premises for unlawful activity including gang or drug-related activities; damages the value of the property; interferes with other tenant’s use of the property; the landlord can issue a three-day notice to move out. The tenant must move out after receiving this type of notice. There is no option to stay and correct the problem.
For no cause: Except in the city of Seattle, landlords can evict month-to-month tenants without having or stating a particular reason, as long as the eviction is not discriminatory or retaliatory. If the landlord wants a tenant to move out and does not give a reason,the tenant must be given a 20-day notice to leave. The tenant must receive the notice at least 20 days before the next rent is due. The tenant can only be required to move out at the end of a rental period (the day before a rental payment is due.) Usually, a 20-day notice cannot be used if the tenant has signed a lease. Check the specific rental document to determine if a lease can be ended this way.
If the rental is being converted to a condominium, the tenant must be given a 90-day notice under state law.
- Breaking your Lease
If you have to leave your place before your lease has expired, it does not automatically mean you lose every penny of your deposit. There are some legitimate, legally acceptable reasons for leaving during the term of your lease, such as: the landlord is not complying with the rental agreement (RCW 59.08.090); the landlord is wrongfully failing to supply essential services (RCW 59.08.060).
- The Landlord-Tenant Act
Online here or write to:
Attorney General’s Office
2000 Bank of California Center
900 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98164
Free copies of the Landlord-Tenant Law are also available at Pullman City Hall, ASWSU, and the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. For more online information regarding Landlord-Tenant issues, see:
If you have a housing problem, the following are FREE services you can call:
- ASWSU Student Legal Services (WSU Students only): 335-9539
- Human Rights Commission (discrimination): 334-7868
- Northwest Conflict Management Center: (Spokane) 456-0103
- Fulcrum Institute Dispute Resolution Center: (Spokane) 838-2799