Before using this information, please read:
To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
1) Document All Communications with Your Landlord in Writing
It is best practice to document all communications you do with your landlord. Keeping good documentation can save you from a lot of trouble during and after your tenancy. Washington landlord tenant laws require tenants to request repairs in writing. For example, If your landlord attempts to deduct from your deposit on items you tried to get repaired, you have proof showing that the repair was never your responsibility should your landlord fail to fix it. Another good example is documenting when you pay rent in case the rent box is broken in to, or if your landlord claims they never received payment. Tenants can send their checks to their landlord via certified mail, or deliver the check personally with a reliable third party witness.
1. Know Your Rights
Landlord-tenant laws cannot help you until you know them and know how to use them. Use Tenants Rights Counseling and this website as resources to learn about your rights. Some landlords will take advantage of tenants who aren’t fully informed about their legal protections. You can find answers to many common questions on this website – or call or visit the Tenants Union for Tenant Rights Counseling.
2. Document Everything
Always get it in writing! It is a best practice to document all your communications with your landlord in writing, and get proof that they were sent and received. Without written documentation, every repair request or agreement between you and your landlord will come down to your word against theirs. In many places in the law, the tenant is actually not allowed a remedy until the request has been put in writing and sent to the landlord. A thorough paper trail will ensure that you’ll have the proof you need to protect yourself if you end up needing to fight a disputed bill or take your landlord to small claims court. See Best Practices and Tips for Tenants for more information on documentation.
It is up to you as a tenant to proactively take steps to ensure your rights are being respected by your landlord.
Washington State laws governing residential tenancies are detailed in RCW 59.18, the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Tenants within the City of Seattle have additional protections under Seattle Municipal Codes (see Seattle Laws for more information). Most cities also have local building code ordinances.
Just as important as knowing the law is knowing how to use it to protect yourself as a renter. With a few exceptions, landlord-tenant laws are considered “self help” – it is up to individual tenants to get their rights enforced. You cannot call the police if your landlord has refused to return your deposit or is unwilling to make a repair.
The information contained in or linked to the Tenants Union of Washington State website (www.tenantsunion.org) is for informational purposes only. The Tenants Union of Washington State or its representatives cannot act as your attorney, and its staff members are not attorneys. The Tenants Union makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court, and makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.