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Fair Housing Laws in Washington

Washington’s fair housing laws are more expansive than federal ones, offering protection to people based on source of income and sexual orientation.

Washington, like every U.S. state, is governed by the federal Fair Housing Act. Although states cannot take away any protections granted by federal law, they are allowed to add more. Washington’s laws offer slightly broader protections

Washington State protects more renters against discrimination

The Washington State Law Against Discrimination1—in combination with the more recent House Bill 25782—adds four protected classes to those already listed in the federal Fair Housing Act:

  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation (including gender identity)
  • Source of income
  • Veteran/military status

"Source of income" became a protected class in 2018

It has been illegal to reject an applicant because they use Section 8 vouchers for more than 25 years in Seattle. In 2016, the city widened these protections to encompass any lawful source of income. But it wasn’t until late 2018 that the entire state of Washington passed a ban on income discrimination, becoming the 14th state to do so.3

Today, it’s illegal for a landlord in Washington to reject an applicant solely because they receive city, state, or federal funding to help pay their rent. This includes:4

  • Housing assistance
  • Public assistance
  • Emergency rental assistance
  • Veterans benefits
  • Social security
  • Supplemental security income or other retirement programs
  • Other programs administered by any federal, state, local, or nonprofit entity

Property owners who violate the law are liable for up to four and a half times the monthly rent, plus court fees and attorney costs.5 The 2018 law also created a fund to reimburse landlords for any damages or lost rent from tenants who rely on a source of income included in the law. A landlord can be reimbursed between $500 and $5,000, depending on several factors.6

Some cities in Washington protect even more renters

Certain cities in Washington have even broader fair housing laws. In Seattle, for instance, it’s also illegal to discrimination against someone based on their age, political ideology, or the use of a service animal.7

[1] RCW 49.60.222(1)

[2] RCW 59.18.255

[3] “WA landlords continue to turn away applicants with Section 8 vouchers,” Crosscut

[4] RCW 59.18.255(5)

[5] RCW 59.18.255(4)

[6] RCW 43.31.605

[7] Seattle Municipal Code 14.08.015

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.