This information has been taken from the booklet, "Landlord-Tenant
Law" published by the state of Washington Attorney
General's office. For more information, call (800) 692-5082
Month-to-Month Rental Agreement
- This agreement is for an indefinite period of time, with rent
usually payable on a monthly basis. The agreement itself can
be in writing or oral, but if any type of fee or refundable deposit
is being paid, the agreement must be in writing. A month-to-month
agreement continues until either the landlord or tenant gives
proper notice to end it. The rent can be raised or the rules
changed at any time, provided the landlord gives the ttenant proper
- If the landlord wants to change the provisions of a month-to-month
agreement, such as rraising the rent or changing the rules, the
tenant must be given at least 30 days notice in wrriting. These
changes can only become effective at the beginning of the rental
period (the day the rent is due). If the landlord wishes to convert
the unit to a condominium the tenant must be given a 90-day notice.
- A lease requires a tenant to stay for a specific amount of
time and restrict's the landlord's ability to change the terms
of the agreement. A lease must be in wrriting to be valid. During
the term of the lease, the rent cannot be raised or the rules
changed unless both landlord and tenant agrree. Leases for one-year
or more are exempt from the Landlord-Tenant Act, but only if the
tenent's attorney has approved such an exemption.
Illegal Provisions in Rental Agreements
Some provisions which may appear in rental agreements or leases
are not legal and cannot be enforced under the law. These include:
- A provision which waives any right given to tenants by the
- A provision that tenants give up their rigght to defend themselves
in court against a landlord's accusations.
- A provision which limits the landlord's liability in situations
where the landlord would normally be responsible.
- A provision allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit
without proper notice.
- A provision requiring a tenant to pay for all damage to the
unit, even if it is not caused by tenants or their guests.
- A provision stating the tenant will pay the landlord's attorney's
fees under any circumstances if a dispute goes to court.
- A provision that allows the landlord to seize a tenant's property
if the tenant falls behind in rent.
Deposits & Other Fees
When a new tenant moves in, the landlord often collects money
to cover such things as cleaning or damage. The money collected
may be refundable or nonrefundable.
Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, the term "deposit" can
only be applied to money which can be refunded to the tenant.
If a refundable deposit is being charged, the law requires:
- The rental agreement must be in writing. It must say what
each deposit is and what the tenant must do in order to get the
- The tenant must be given a written receipt for each deposit.
- A checklist or statement describing the condition of the rental
unit must be filled out. Landlord and tenant must sign it, and
the tenant must be given a signed copy.
- The deposits must be placed in a trust account in a bank or
escrow company. The tenant must be informed in writing where
the deposits are being kept. Unless some other agreement has
been made in writing, any interest earned by the deposit belongs
to the landlord.
These will not be returned to the tenant under any circumstances.
If a nonrefundable fee is being charged, the rental agreement
must be in writing and must state that the fee will not be returned.
A nonrefundable fee cannot legally be called a "deposit."
When The Property Is Sold
The sale of the property does not automatically end a lease or
month-to-month rental agreement. When a property is sold, tenants
must be notified of the new owner's name and address, either by
certified mail, or by a revised posting on the premises.
All deposits paid to the original owner must be transferred to
the new owner, who must put them in a trust or escrow account.
The new owner must promptly nitify tenants where the deposits
are being held.
Landlord's Access To Units
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 unit where the landlord has given at lease 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 the tenant 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.
Proper Notice To Move Out (Leases)
- If the tenant moves out at the expiration of a lease, in most
cases it is not necessary to give the landlord a written notice.
However, the lease should be consulted to be sure a formal notice
is not required.
- If a tenant stays beyond the expiration of the lease, and
the landlord accepts the next month's rent, the tenant then is
assumed to be renting under a month-to-month agreement.
- A tenant who leaves before a lease expires is responsible
for paying the rent for the rest of the lease. However, the landlord
must make an effort to re-rent the unit at a reasonable price.
If this is not done, the tenant may not be liable for rent beyond
a reasonable period of time.
Proper Notice To Move Out (Month-to-month rental agreements)
- When a tenant wants to end a month-to-month rental agreemetn,
written notice must be given to the landlord. The notice must
be received at least 20 days before the end of the rental period
(the day before rent is due). The day on which the notice is
delivered does not count. A landlord cannot require a tenant
to give more than 20 days notice when moving out.
- What if a tenant moves out without giving proper notice?
The law says the tenant is liable for rent for the lesser of:
30 days from the day the next rent is due, or 30 days from the
day the landlord learns the tenant has moved out. However, the
landlord has a duty to try and find a new rentter. If the dwelling
is rented before the end of the 30 days, the former tenant mustt
pay only until the new tenant begins paying rent.
- When a landlord wants a month-to-month renter to move out,
a 20-day notice is required.
Return of Deposits
After a tenant moves out, a landlord has 14 days in which to either
return deposits, or give the tenant a weritten statement of why
all or part of the money is being kept.
Under the law, the rental unit must be restored to the same condition
as when the tenant moved in, except for normal wear and tear.
Deposits cannot be used to cover normal wear and tear; or damage
that existed when the tenant moved in. Under the law, a damage
checklist should have been filled out when the tenant moved in.
There are four types of evictions under the law, each requiring
a certain type of notice:
- For not paying rent. 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 of 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.
- For not complying with the terms of the rental agreement.
If a tenant is not complying with the terms of the rental agreement,
the landlord can give a 10-day notice to comply or move out.
If the tenant remedies the situation within that time, the landlord
cannot continue the evicition process.
- For creating a "waste or nuisance."
If a tenant destroys a landlord's property; uses the premises
for unlawful activity including drug-related activities; damages
the value of the property or 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. The tenant must be given a 20-day notice to leave,
and must receive the notice at least 20 days before the nexxt
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