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Rental Agreement Regulation

TU Victory! This law exists because members of the Tenants Union worked together and fought for it. If you have benefited from this law, go to Tenants Union Membership to find out more about becoming a member to support the TU’s work for housing justice.

1) 60 days’ notice is required for all housing cost increases of 10% or more in a 12-month period for all Seattle tenants. The Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance, or RARO, requires that Seattle landlords give tenants 60 days written notice of any increase in housing costs of 10% or more in a 12 month period. Housing costs include rent and any other monthly or periodic fees for other services that the tenant pays the landlord, but do not include usage-based utility charges.

If you have been given less than the required amount of notice, you can contest an improper rent increase. See our Sample Letter: Improper Rent Increase or Rule Change. Tenants can also file a complaint with SDCI, which has the authority to rescind an improper rent increase notice. If the landlord does not follow the requirement to provide a 60-day written notice for a rent increase of 10% or more, and instead serves a 14-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, the tenant can pay the rent increase by writing “payment under protest” on their check. The tenant can then pursue the difference owed from the improper rent increase in Small Claims Court. It would also be a good idea for the tenant to pursue legal help through the Housing Justice Project in Seattle. See the Legal Assistance Guide for renters for more information.

Some tenants will choose not to pay the increase at all and just pay their regular amount. The risk here is that the tenant could end up in eviction court for nonpayment of rent after service of the 14-Day Pay or Vacate Notice, and will have to explain to a judge or court commissioner why they think the rent increase is not appropriate. This can be a risky choice, because whenever a landlord files an eviction lawsuit against a tenant, it creates an eviction record even if the tenant wins the court case.

2) One-way leases are illegal in Seattle. A “one-way lease” is a rental agreement that requires a month-to-month tenant to stay for more than one rental period, or that charges fees or requires the tenant to waive their deposit if they vacate before a set period of time. In addition, RARO makes it illegal for landlords to penalize month-to-month tenants for vacating before a specified time set out in the lease. One way leases are prohibited in the city of Seattle.

3) Seattle landlords must provide landlord-tenant information to renters. RARO also requires that Seattle landlords provide all renters with a copy of a summary of their rights as tenants upon move-in. Landlords who do not provide this summary may be liable to the tenant for a penalty of up to $200 if they deliberately fail to follow this requirement.

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