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Protecting Your Privacy

State law details tenants’ rights to privacy and notice requirements for landlords to enter rental units. Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, landlords must give forty-eight hours written notice to enter your unit, or twenty-four hours’ notice if they are showing the unit to a new prospective tenant or purchaser. The written notice must specify exact dates and time for entry, or specify a time period, listing the earliest and latest possible times for entry on designated dates. The notice must contain a telephone number for the tenant to reach the landlord in order to object or reschedule the entry. They can only enter at reasonable times and they cannot abuse their right of access or use it to harass you. The law does not specifically define reasonable times. If the landlord’s proposed notice times don’t work for you, you may decide to offer alternate times that the property is available for inspection. If your unit is up for sale, there may be a lockbox placed on the unit to allow access, but all privacy laws apply to potential purchasers and real estate agents entering the unit.

This law has an enforcement provision written into it. If your landlord violates your rights to privacy by entering the unit without giving the proper notice, you can send a letter to the landlord detailing the date and time of the alleged violation. Take a look at a Sample Letter: Invasion of Privacy. It is always a good idea to send letters certified mail and regular postal mail so you can prove that they were sent. Once the landlord receives this letter, you have the right to take the landlord to Small Claims Court to sue for up to $100 per subsequent violation of your notice rights, not including the initial violation, though taking the landlord to Small Claims Court during your tenancy may create further difficulties for you.

Tenants also must make the unit available for entry when necessary for inspection or repairs, and the law allows landlords to pursue $100 per violation in court after sending a letter detailing the alleged date and time of the tenant’s refusal to let the landlord enter after proper notice has been provided. If the landlord violates your privacy multiple times after the letter has been sent, you can keep a written log of the incidents, including specific times and dates of privacy violations.

Landlord-tenant laws in Washington State do not address or place any restrictions on your landlord’s use of your personal information, but there may be other laws that address this. Speak to an attorney to find out more. You can also pursue legal assistance to find other laws that govern your rights to privacy.

Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.