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Understanding Landlord-Tenant Laws

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.

There is not an equal playing field between landlords and tenants. As property owners, landlords have access to financial and other resources that many tenants do not. Landlord-tenant laws are unfortunately currently not strong enough to adequately address all the needs of renters in the state. All housing problems can lead down the road to eviction, so be prepared to take action in order to protect yourself.

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