Changes to the Landlord Tenant Act – RCW 59.18
By Bethany Aldrich, Director of Residential Operations
Windermere Property Management, Bellingham, WA
Both property owners and tenants need to remain up to date on the legal changes that went into effect in Washington state this past July. As property managers at Windermere, it’s our job to keep track of the complex and constantly changing laws for you. Here is a synopsis of the changes as we understand them.
There have been a couple of really big changes, created primarily to help ease the growing homelessness crisis many communities now face.
Eviction Notice Changes:
- The first of these is that “Notice to Vacate” eviction notices have gone from a 3-day notice to 14 days. This gives renters more time to catch up on past due rent, ask for payment plans, seek out charitable organizations, and hopefully prevents families from ending up without shelter during difficult financial times. In addition, it is up to the court’s discretion to enforce eviction or not depending upon the tenant’s previous history with late rent.
- In addition, there is now a state-mandated form to use for these Notice to Vacate notices. Previously, many property owners used their own, and Windermere had a notice that had been generated by our legal services. It’s important to use the new one. You can find one at https://www.atg.wa.gov/landlord-tenant. The notice itself must be posted on the door of the rental as well as mailed through USPS mail. Our tenants have an option of also receiving rent invoices by email.
Rental Payment Diversions
- Before the changes, landlords could divert tenant’s payments to other bills directly to the owed rent without the tenant’s permission. At Windermere, we have tenant friendly policies and have never re-directed rent money. It’s an unfair situation for a renter who thinks they have paid a utility bill or repair bill for instance, and the money has been applied to past due rent. This can no longer be done.
- Previously, rent increases required 30-day notice. It is now 60 days. In addition, remember that a notice can only go out at the end of the renter’s lease. If they are a month to month contract, it is still a 60-day notice. Our office makes every effort to notify tenants as early as possible when a rent increase is imminent and gives property owners as much notice as feasible when we are recommending a rent increase.
Limits on Attorney’s Fees
- If a tenant had lost an eviction lawsuit by a default judgement, for failing to respond or show up on time to a court proceeding, the landlord could collect attorney fees. Now they cannot. In addition, attorney fees are now limited in cases where tenants owed less than 2-month’s rent, or less than $1200 to the property owner.
Notice Before Major Renovations
- If a developer wished to change an apartment’s use or completely renovate it, only 90 days-notice was required on a month to month rental agreement. It is now 120 days, giving the renter time to move or make other plans.
At Windermere Property Management:
Our customers are both the owners and the renters.
The owners are our clients
But the tenants are our customers
We work hard to keep everyone happy
I am not an attorney and this blog is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. Don’t hesitate to check further into regulations if necessary.