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Rent Payment Laws in Washington

Under new laws passed in 2019, tenants in Washington have more leeway when it comes to paying rent. However, they’re still required to pay on time—or face fees and even eviction.

Already a tenant-friendly state, Washington enacted several new laws in 2019 that offer even more protection.1 Renters across the state are now notified earlier about rent increases and have more time to pay rent before eviction. That said, rent control is not permitted anywhere in the state—making Washington the only state on the West Coast without it.

Tenants can pay rent by cash or other methods

While Washington’s laws do mention cash payments, they don’t specifically say which other forms of payment are acceptable when it comes to rent.2 Landlords could also accept credit cards, checks, money orders, or electronic transfers—but the lease should mention which of these payment methods will be accepted. Whatever form of payment, any money received by the landlord should be applied first to rent before any other payments such as late fees or damages.3

By law, landlords are required to provide a written receipt for any rent payments made in cash. However, they are only required to provide written receipts for other methods of payment if the tenant requests it.

Tenants have 14 days to pay rent before landlords can evict

As of 2019, Washington landlords have to give tenants who haven't paid their rent 14 days' notice before they can file for eviction.4 (This is a big change from past laws, which only required three days' notice.) During that period, tenants can either come up with the full rent or move out. Landlords can also choose to accept partial payment of rent during that time, which may stop the eviction from proceeding.5 Any partial payments or payment plans negotiated between the landlord and tenant should be put into writing.

Late fees aren't regulated, but must be in the lease

Washington law doesn't mention late fees, meaning that they're not capped at a specific number. That said, the law does note that tenants are only required to follow rules that are "reasonable."6 If a landlord is charging a $200 late fee, for instance, a tenant might be able to successfully argue in court that it's unreasonably high.

Also, landlords can only charge a late fee if it’s written into the lease agreement. If it's not mentioned in the lease, it can't be charged, no matter how reasonable it is.

Landlords can charge a fee for bounced checks

Landlords in Washington can charge a fee if a tenant’s check bounces. This fee can be calculated using one of two formulas, whichever ends up being less:7

  • 12 percent interest + $40
  • 12 percent interest + the face amount of the check

Before charging the fee, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the check bounced and give them 15 days to pay the amount they owe. If the tenant reissues a valid check within that time period, no bounced check fee applies. However, if a tenant still doesn’t provide a new check after the landlord gives notice and waits 15 days, the landlord can take the tenant to court. At that point, the tenant could be required by the court to pay $300 or three times the original amount of the check, whichever is less—as well as the landlord’s attorneys’ fees.

Landlords must give 60-day notice for rent increases

When a landlord wants to increase rent for an existing month-to-month lease, they must give at least 60 days’ notice.8 For fixed-term leases of a year or more, landlords can only increase rent at the end of the lease term, with 60-day notice. Rent can’t be raised in the middle of the rental period unless the tenant lives in income-based subsidized housing.

Rent control isn’t allowed in Washington

Rent control is not permitted anywhere in Washington.9 In fact, the state’s cities and towns have been banned from regulating rent prices since 1981. That means there’s no cap on how much a landlord can raise rent.

Despite the lack of rent control, landlords cannot raise rent for discriminatory or punitive reasons. They can’t raise rents based on such things as race or gender, or if a tenant files a complaint against them.

[1] “2019 Changes to Washington’s Landlord/Tenant and Eviction Laws,” Northwest Justice Project

[2] RCW §59.18.063

[3] RCW §59.18.283

[4] RCW §59.12.030

[5] “Eviction Process,” Tenants Union of Washington State

[6] RCW §59.18.140

[7] RCW §62A.3-515

[8] RCW §59.18.140

[9] RCW §35.21.830

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

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