The landlord must provide a copy of the rental agreement to each tenant that signs it. The tenant may request one free replacement copy during the tenancy. There are three different types of rental agreements:
1) Month-to-month rental agreements do not contain specific time limits. The tenancy continues until one party or the other issues a notice to vacate or terminate tenancy of 20 days written notice given before the rent is due. (Seattle tenants have Just Cause Eviction Protection that requires landlords to give more notice in some cases and restricts terminations of tenancy to 18 “Just Cause” reasons.) Month-to-month tenancies can be verbal or written. Verbal rental agreements are legal in Washington State and are considered to be month-to-month tenancies. If your landlord takes any kind of deposit or nonrefundable fee from you, the rental agreement must be in writing and state the terms and conditions under which your money is refundable.
2) One-way leases are month-to-month agreements where the landlord charges a termination fee or waives the deposit if the tenant moves out before a certain number of months. One-way leases are illegal in the City of Seattle. They are called “one-way” leases because they only benefit one party: the landlord. See Seattle Landlord-Tenant Information for more about protections against one-way leases.
3) Fixed-term leases are rental agreements for a specific period of time. They must be in writing. One-year leases are very common. Under RCW 59.18.210 , leases over 12 months must be notarized in order to be valid. Leases also restrict the landlord from increasing the rent or changing the rules of tenancy during the fixed term. Tenants are obligated to meet the conditions of the lease for the full term or face penalties.
RCW 59.18.220 states that the tenancy ends at the end of the stated lease term. A lease expires at the end of the lease term unless the contract states otherwise. Typically, a one year lease may contain language that converts the tenancy to month-to-month at the end of the stated lease term. This means that for a tenant whose lease does not have language automatically extending its term, neither party needs to give written notice, and the tenant must either move out or negotiate a new term.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.